Inspiring young minds

Inspiring young minds

It is not uncommon to see elderly people getting awards for children’s literature. What is rare is to see children achieving this feat. Such an  unusual occasion happened recently, when a book edited and compiled by children was awarded by the Shivamogga Karnataka Sangha. The fact that these students study in a government school added to the astonishment. The credit for encouraging students to make a mark in the literary world goes to the teachers of Government Higher Primary School in Kannamangala, a small village in Sidlaghatta taluk of Chikkaballapur district, who have changed the common perceptions about  government schools.

The right support

Shamanti (meaning chrysanthemum), the annual publication of the School, is the manifestation of students’ interest and creativity. “Students are lucky to have
supportive teachers. The effort is indicative of a positive student-teacher relationship, which is rare to find these days,” says well-known writer Na D’Souza. A glance at the book reveals the care taken to facilitate children to express their thoughts and experiences without any intervention.

All the four editions published so far have not been edited or rewritten by teachers or parents. Short write-ups, stories, drama, cartoons, drawings and poems of the book draw inspiration from day-to-day experiences. Thus, themes range from agriculture and nature’s elements to village festivals and local food. Handwritten scripts of the children are printed in the magazine. The language used is colloquial and the form is not formal. Telugu has an influence on the village and as a result, numerous
kandelugu (blend of Kannada and Telugu) words have crept into their narratives.

Words used in the magazine — patli, pungani, racchu, sondu, genime, kutani, attu, phalana, etc — carry the spontaneity of the colloquial language of Kolar-Chikkaballapur region. “They have picked these words from their daily life and the process reflects the present mode of language evolution,” opines writer Kotaganahalli Ramaiah.

Teachers have given them the freedom to explore their talents and it is reflected in the diversity of its content. To ensure that students get a fair chance to express, even one-liners like “Why do people need clothing?” and “What comprises our brain?” have been included. Students also review books they read in the school library and movies they watch in the audio-visual room. The rawness and spontaneity of the narratives help the reader to understand the curiosity and enthusiasm of these young minds. Rajesh, who had contributed a small write-up for the first issue of Shamanti has penned a drama in its fourth issue.

Art-based interventions
A series of art-based interventions in the School have helped students to hone their creative skills and visual sensibilities. They have tried their hand at cartooning, considered as an elders’ art, successfully. Innovative themes and unique picturisation make their illustrations special. Each issue of the magazine promises a better future for children’s literature. Krupakar-Senani, who have written the epilogue to the fourth issue of the magazine, appreciate the freshness and variety of the write-ups that have blossomed without the influence of any literary paradigms. 

Though educational institutions provide a platform for children to groom their
interests, not all children get an equal chance. Most of the times, only a few
‘expressive and talented’ students are seen at the forefront of all the traditionally
conceived, set-pattern activities. Unlike others, Kannamangala School provides equal opportunities for all students and tries to identify the talents of each student.

“Village kids internalise traditional rural wisdom. We teachers should respect it and provide them an opportunity to express it,” says H Muniappa, head teacher of the School. Even parents are happy about the School’s efforts. “Activities at the School have helped my son to utilise his time judiciously. He just loves attending school,” says Shashikala, a parent.

Kannamangala has about 200 households and more than 70 per cent of the population is socially and economically disadvantaged. Education is not a priority for these people who struggle every day to make a livelihood. Elders of the village
appreciate the School’s initiatives to attract more number of village children.

The School began treading a different path a decade ago. It realised the need for an outlet to showcase students’ literary talents and produced a handwritten monthly magazine called Navilugari (peacock’s feather). Though it stopped after a year due to financial constraints and the hectic schedule of teachers, teachers continued with co-curricular activities like nature walk, painting, and sports.

Since 2006, the School has been organising taluk-level annual inter-school theatre festival and theme-based summer camps. The School has a library and a moderately equipped audio-visual room. Teachers encourage reflective reading and help students cultivate it as a committed hobby. All programmes aim at ensuring active participation and articulation of students.

Influenced by the progressive outlook of the School, its alumni formed an association to nurture and support the School’s activities including publication. With its support, the School decided to continue with the literary handbook in a new form and this led to the launch of Shamanti series in 2010. These efforts represent the kind of exposure a school could give to its students to nurture their creativity and mould their social sensibilities.

The transformation
Now the School has over 80 students who attend classes regularly. It accommodates 1st to 8th standard students, after which,  they enrol in the high school in the neighbouring village. “Then we get the results of our efforts. Our students stand out in the group,” claim teachers Shivashankar, Srinivas, Kaladhar, Sunitha and Padmavathi who spend quality time with students, nourishing their creative skills and ensuring academic progress.

Decades ago, the village, which is situated on the Karnataka-Andhra Pradesh border, was notorious for thefts and robberies and had earned the name Kalla Kannamangala. Now, it has gained a place in the map of the State for its cultural achievement and villagers are happy about the changed status.

Such activities make the School a model unit at a time when there are apprehensions about the quality of education and  commitment of teachers.
Mallikarjuna Hosapalya
(Translated by Anitha Pailoor)

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