The children

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Child Participation

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Introduction to Dantewada

Creativity in times of Conflict

By Augustine Veliath

Every year schools in India celebrate Children’s Day on the 14 of November. Children in Dornapal celebrated 14 children’s days in a row this year.

What makes Dornapal and its 3,000 children  so special? First about the place and then about the children.

Dornapal district in the newly created state of Chattisgarh  is 416 kms away from the state capital Raipur . It is where the east (Orissa) meets west (Maharashtra). It is also where north (Chattisgarh) meets south (Andhra Pradesh).  But that is not why Dornapal is known.

This tribal village in southern Bastar region, heavily guarded by the Central Reserve Police Force and the locally raised special security force is in the vortex of a civil conflict. Dornapal transit camp is home to 17,000 people uprooted under a government supported peace initiative.

Adults wage war but children pay the price. For 3,000 children confined to the camps in Dornapal, freedom is limited to the four walls of the well guarded residential school complex. These are children uprooted from their villages because of the states conflict with extreme left wing groups.

UNICEF and the District administration first addressed the sanitation needs of the camp. Water tanks and toilets are in place in adequate numbers. UNICEF also supports health and education issues in the camp. Separate weather proof tents have been put to serve as individual class rooms. Learning materials and accessories have been supplied.

To mark Children’s Day this year UNICEF  and district administration announced a  child participation fortnight and four major child participation resource groups moved into the camp. These were:

• Gatividhi from Patna who conducted a Meena film festival, where children watched and critically reviewed the girl child centric films and created  Meena muppets theatre of their own.

• World Comics from Delhi whose comics workshop  enabled about 100 children to make their own comics and display them.

• Shanti Ashram  from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu  oriented children to cultural expressions of their rights and

• Awaaz from Lucknow  who ran the fun school resulting in a series of creative expressions including the children’s news papers and a tribal song  which has become the theme song to which all children dance today.

The activities began with children creating their own space by erecting special tents for creativity in the camp.

What followed was a festival of Meena films. 3000 children in groups of 40 watched all the 14 Meena films, deliberated on each story in the light of their own lives.

The evenings belonged to Rudyard Kipling as the children and the neighboring community watched all 21 episodes of Jungle Book.

Meena, the twelve year old animation icon will continue to live with them as the intensive muppet theatre workshop has enabled them  to stage a Meena play at will.  Jyoti a tribal student plays  Meena  and B. Priyanka, Mithu the parrot.

In the evenings the children, who had never seen a movie or sat in a train before put up a cultural show for the residents of Dornapal and then watched all 21 episodes of the Rudyard Kipling masterpiece the Jungle Book

The fortnight ended in an exhibition children’s creativity attended by the Chief Executive Officer and other senior officials of the District. Fifteen of these were invited by the Governor to the State Capital later.

The first Children’s Newspaper in Dornapal
Malla and Arvind were brimming with pride. Their hard work had paid off. Right before them was the exhibit of the first Children’s Newspaper in Dornapal.

Let’s draw our world
Kattam Krishna fell asleep still clutching a pencil between his thumb and index finger. By his pillow a heap of loose sheets fluttered with a sudden gust of cold wind.

Homeward bound
Theirs was a group of three; Sablam Manku, Podiyum Ganga and Dilip – all around 12 years old. Students of Balak Ashram, Dornapal, the three were proud of their of die hard friendship.

Meena comes to Dornapal
It was the night of 15th November 2006. As she slept on the floor of her one roomed house, Kumari Jyoti had no clue about what the next day had in store for her.

Sundari’s song
Sundari, a silent and unassuming tribal girl, decided articulate the aspirations of children in the camp through a song in the Gondi tribal language.

 

 

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