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Grassroot reporting by grassroot children

Vanita Srivastava

Eighteen-year-old Kamod Singh Ahirwar of Chechli village in Sohapur tehsil of Hoshangabad district candidly narrates all the problems of his village. From lackadaisical teaching staff to poor electricity supply to sanitation. He forks them out with ease. Ninth standard student Lal Singh of Gundaria hamlet rattles out the same problems but with different tone. He emphasizes on the need to have good teachers in schools.

Both Kamod and Lal Singh are abreast with the problems that plague their villages. But they need a platform to delineate them. Both understand the strength of pen and have a desire to write their woes so that it reaches the person vested with authority.

The two are among the 35-40 child reporters selected between the age group 11-18 by the Dalit Sangh, an organization that works for the socially oppressed communities in Sohagpur. The Sangh with the help of UNICEF is going to take out a quarterly Newsletter which would be in toto written by children of five villages Jamonia, Semri Harchan, Gundavai, Turakhapa and Chicli. A large chunk would be children of the backward communities Pardi and Sapera.

Enumerating the details Dr Authey Gopal, Chief Functionary Officer of Dalit Sangh in Sohagpur said " the objective was to give them a dais to spell out their problems." The first issue of the four paged edition would be released in March and is likely to have 30-40 news stories.

More than 200 names had come from the government schools of the five villages. A written test was thereafter conducted to prune the students on the basis of their writing and expressive skills. The test themed on five subjects asked the children to write on a subject of their choice, a model village, newspaper, problem of village and sanitation.

Several interesting facets came to fore during the tests, Dr Gopal said adding " Like for instance one of the girls said that Chichli village has been notified as a model village by the government but the hamlet does not have any drain." A workshop conducted by some selected journalists would train the child reporters on the nitty- gritty of journalism. They will also be trained in making cartoons by experts. Barring the grammatical mistakes which would be corrected, the news would not be edited and would be placed as such to retain the originality and simplicity, he said.

The child reporters would also get an opportunity to interview administrative authorities including the sarpanch and the collector. How successful the newsletter will be is yet to be seen. But for Kanmod Singh and Lal Singh this could be an opportunity to disseminate their problems to someone who can 'redress' them.

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