Enjoyment, Entertainment, Education & Expression
By Venkatesh Malur
Dornapal district in the newly created state of Chattisgarh is 416 kms away from the state capital Raipur . It is a strife-torn area bordered on the east by Orissa and on the west by Maharashtra. 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.
In 2006, UNICEF on the request of the state government, set up a school camp separately within the safe zone to provide the affected children with their own space and establishing the school as the epicenter of normalcy. There are around 3,000 children of all ages in the school camp.
Dornapal, Dist. Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, 16th November 2007: As I enter the school area I can hear the buzz of children and no sooner do I step out of the car than I’m greeted by a group of eager children who have been playing with clay and trying to create something. A girl, probably in high school, comes up to me and asks me who I am, why I have come there and will I be participating with them in the various activities. I ask her name and she tells me it is Rani and she is studying in Class 9. Another boy says he has seen me before and asks me where is my camera and when I bring it from the car, all the children get together for a photograph with a huge smile and clay on their hands. What a welcome to Dornapal!
Dornapal school has been in the thick of celebrating the Child Rights Week in which around 1,500 children from the ashram schools and regular schools have had the wonderful opportunity to interact, talk, learn and enjoy with 11 children from the Bornfree Art School, Bangalore.
The Bornfree group is here to provide children an opportunity to express themselves through various forms of art, music, dance, theatre and sport to celebrate childhood and as John Devaraj, founder of Bornfree Art School says “Childrenise the World”. In this week the children have gone through activities ranging from sports, music, Tai-chi, clay modelling, drama and most significantly to be together, participate, learn by doing with entertainment and enjoyment. The celebrations have provided the children in strife torn Dornapal an arena to express their feelings, aspirations and dreams.
In a school surrounded by frequent killings, camps of CRPF, police and the various meetings of Salwa Judum the children seem to be in their own world like anywhere else in the country and have the enthusiasm and innate ability to grasp new things and wanting to exhibit their new creations.
As part of the celebrations photography was taught to them and around 60 children went off into the Dornapal Camp and when they came back we had with us a vivid collection of around 800 photographs depicting life in the camp and also very interestingly, numerous photographs of children at work in and around Dornapal.
The children were taught Tai-chi, a Japanese martial art which helps to harmonise the mind and body so as to concentrate on learning. In the evening every day the children watched films ranging from Tom & Jerry to Lagaan which the children and their parents thoroughly enjoyed.
To sum up, the CRC week brought together children from Dornapal and Bangalore and threw them together for 10 days in which they created through their expressions a ‘Tree of life’ - a memento which they presented to the Child Participation Cente and UNICEF.
The Tree represents the feelings, creativity, thoughts and aspirations of the children and how they are an important part of the future. During the week the children invited us to their homes in Dornapal and provided us an insight into their lives in the middle of the disturbances which seemed as something normal to them.
Today children like Rani, Priyanka, Satish, Nagaraj, Elsa and Jayaram are waiting to take a leap into the mainstream and make a mark through their expressions and feelings as they sing together Hum Honge Kamyab Ek Din (We shall overcome..).