pradesh: Residential schools
Kathalaya, which recently organised Kathothsava 2005, uses story-telling as an educational tool. Malvika Kaul reports.
DOES the famous Panchatantra tale of the blue jackal have any relevance in an algebra class? Can a concept of physics be taught through a tale from the Mahabharata? Most unlikely, most of us would say. But this is exactly what Kathalaya, an organisation based in Bangalore, is doing: Using storytelling as an educational tool.
Kathalaya, or the House of Stories, uses folktales, myths, legends, biographies and stories from the epics not only to teach subjects like history or the languages, but also complicated science and mathematics concepts.
The idea has worked so well that today, Kathalaya’s storytelling method is being followed by 50 rural schools and 10 urban schools across South India. Its curriculum for storytelling — from kindergarten up to Class VII — is being implemented in some government schools in and around Bangalore, in Madurai and in some rural schools.
The Bangalore branch of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan has introduced this concept in their Chaitanya training programmes in villages.
"Our idea is not to simply start a lesson with a story but to tell the lesson as a story so that children can retain and recall a concept taught to them,’’ Geeta Ramanujam, co-founder of Kathalaya, says.
The idea of story telling as an educational tool emerged when Ramanujam, who has worked as a teacher at the Aurobindo Memorial School and as a librarian with the Krishnamurti Foundation School, was asked to teach history and geography to children from Class IV to VIII.
She says, "I found it very boring and felt that the only way to make the subject interesting was through stories and project work. At the library, I noticed the children were not motivated to take a book and read."
She added, "The best way to introduce an author or a good book was through reading aloud and telling stories."
Ramanujam realised that all children, shy or naughty, concentrated in the same way when a story was told. Inspired, she and a friend organised a week-long workshop to help children learn concepts through stories based on myths, fables, legends and fantasies. The workshop also had clay modelling and toy-making as follow-up activities.
"The workshop was a success. We had found the universal medium that would generate interest in the child and revive the desire to learn," said Ramanujam.
In 1998, along with friends Lalu Narayan and Sujatha Pai, Ramanujam began Kathalaya. Within a year, Kathalaya was registered as a trust. Besides running programmes, members of Kathalaya perform stories in bookshops, libraries and public places.
About integrating storytelling into the classroom, she says, "Let’s say we take a typical 40-minute class for maths or social studies for Class III or Class IV students. We study the syllabus and find stories suited to the concepts or vice-versa. Then we edit the folk tale and make a lesson plan. Our story educators are trained to tell the story and then follow it up with an exercise oral or written. Even complicated mathematical concepts like permutations and combinations can be taught in this manner,"said Ramanujam.
Kathalaya prepares an educational kit of several lessons and gives them to teachers in schools where they have introduced the storytelling programme. Teaching a concept in five periods is reduced to three if it is told using stories, claimed Ramanujam.
Kathalaya also assists teachers in finding similar stories for other concepts and trains them in introducing the subject through narration, puppetry, drawing or pictures.
Kathalaya also trains teenaged school students to make modules like toy theatre workshops to use as an effective communication tool to express issues. It took Ramanujam and her team seven years to introduce the storytelling method in 10 urban schools.
Accoding to Ramanujum, storytelling can form the backbone of all learning. Memory skills, problem solving and multiple intelligence in a child can be addressed through stories.
Kathalaya organised Kathothsava-2005, India’s first international storytelling festival, in Bangalore from June 24 to July 10. The festival brought together some of the best storytellers from Japan, France, the USA, besides some Indian states.
Ramanujam got the idea for the festival
while travelling through Tennessee, US, where an entire town was evacuated
for the festival. "It has been happening there for the last 30
years," said Ramanujam. — WFS
Anuradha Thakur talks to Dhanna Ram, who is a tourist attraction in Jaisalmer because of his 4.5-foot-long moustache
OF the many fancies of the people of Rajasthan, growing a moustache holds immense appeal. Each region in the state has its own characteristic style of growing a moustache and a beard. For any visitor, a Rajasthani native male without these would be incomplete.
However, the trend had changed much in cities with the younger generation giving in to changing fashion. Amid this scenario, there are still some last traces of the traditional culture to be seen. While visiting Patwon ki haveli in Jaisalmer, I came across Dhanna Ram, who sports a 4.5 ft long moustache. He is following the footsteps of his late father, Karna Ram Bheel, a Guinness Book record holder for the longest moustache measuring 6.5 ft.
Born in Jaisalmer, Dhanna Ram started growing his moustache after his father’s death in 1988. It took him 15 years to achieve the present length of his moustache, which has now become a means of earning his livelihood to support his family of five daughters, three sons, a mother and a handicapped brother.
Dressed in the traditional Rajasthani attire (kurta, dhoti and pagri), Dhanna Ram is quite an attraction for the visitors. He earns a handsome amount by getting himself photographed with the tourists. Usually he charges between Rs 20 and Rs 30 from Indian tourists and a lot more from foreigners. On an average, he earns between Rs 400 and Rs 500 a day during the tourist season, which remains active from September to March.
He also participates in the Desert Festival held each year in Jaisalmer. In the moustache competition held during this festival, Dhanna Ram claims that he has been winning the competition for the past nearly 10 years. The longest moustache is awarded the "Karna Bheel Trophy", named after his own father, which gets him a cash prize for Rs 5000 for the winner.
Apart from this, Dhanna Ram also gives solo performances playing Narr, a musical instrument similar to a flute, and Morchang which is played with one’s mouth, blowing out air at a wire between two bent iron rods.
During the off-season, Dhanna Ram manages his livelihood by performing at places such as Jaipur, Udaipur, Bikaner on trips arranged by the government. According to him, each trip, which is for two to three days, provides him besides food, lodging and travel expenses, an amount of Rs 5000 each.
On maintaining such lengthy moustache, Dhanna Ram says, "I never use any kind of shampoo. I rub it clean with balls made of multani mitti and then wash it with plain water.
After that a massage of coconut oil or mustard oil does the requisite conditioning."
Balkrishan Prashar on Dalhousie Public School, where the dedicated sisters and children are part of one big family
ONE of the first things that strikes a visitor to Sacred Heart High School, Dalhousie, is its beauty and tranquility. A chapel and garden are at the centre of the school. At this time of the year, the roses and sweet William are all in bloom. The hedges are neatly trimmed and the tall cedar tree stands giving shade to the elderly nuns sitting in prayer near the outdoor shrine. Any parent just arriving from the heat of the plains would surely want his child to study in such ideal surroundings.
The school was started by a tough and dedicated 19th century order of Belgian nuns. The sisters are strong women who feel called to share their love of God through their care of children. They have given up wealth, family life and even their country to fulfil their aim to share Christ’s love with children, helping them to become "individuals who are morally sound, intellectually competent, socially mature and respectful of the environment, who are ever receptive to the challenges of continual growth".
Children at the school are looked after not by hired help but by those who have dedicated their lives to this form of service to God. The sisters have drawn into their ‘family’ other teachers and workers who share their vision and also want to help the pupils grow up into women and men of strength who will help India create a just social order where humans of every caste and creed are valued and respected. There is a real community feeling among the sisters, staff and parents.
The school started in Dalhousie on February 21, 1901, when the sisters reached the town after a rough, snowy journey from Lahore.
There were no funds and no building but there were pupils. But such was the faith of the five pioneering nuns that by August of that year the school was recognised by the Lahore Education Department as an Anglo-Indian school and given grant-in-aid. The school rapidly expanded and grew from strength to strength.
Then came Partition in 1947 and the school suddenly lost all its pupils. It is hard to imagine what it must have felt like when not one of the children who left for Lahore in 1947 returned the following year. The sisters had to start all over again. They trusted God that they were still needed in Dalhousie. By 1957 they needed to extend the classrooms and laboratories. In 1965, the school was affiliated to the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination. In 1975, the 10+2 system was introduced and the school opted for ICSE. The school is proud to record that it has had 100 per cent results since 1947.
The beautiful stone buildings may give the impression that the school is almost too solid and static but that is not true. The sisters have responded to the information revolution by building a computer block and Dalhousie’s scarcity has been met with scientific water harvesting. They are now in their measured way responding to the challenge of co-education. Boys are admitted as day scholars. Himachal Pradesh officers find Dalhousie not such a bad posting after all when they get first class education for their children at such affordable prices.
Today, people talk of education as an industry or a commercial enterprise. That is not true of Sacred Heart High School and never has been. The girls who have gone out from this school have come from rich and poor homes and have appreciated what they learnt here. They are doctors, teachers, entrepreneurs and of course, mothers. Probably one of the best recommendations that a school can have is that its old pupils want to send their children to their school. And what a welcome old girls receive when they come back. All the sisters remember their names and their naughty escapades. One passout landed on the school grounds in her husband’s helicopter. She was determined to shock her dear sisters.
The school motto is Cor Unum. This sums up the whole atmosphere and achievement of the school. It means one heart.
The total strength of the school at present is 600 plus. Students from Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Chandigarh, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal besides 300 students from Himachal Pradesh are a part of the family.
Sand-artist Sudarsan Pattnaik from Orissa has won the famous Berlin Sandsculpture competition. Sudarsan won the prestigious first prize called "The Berlin Prize" competing with sand artists from all over the world. Twentyeight-year-old Pattnaik is the first Indian sand artist to win this award.
While the sand sculpture competition ran from June 9 to 17, the festival that is held near German Parliament at Lehrter Bahnhof will contiue until July 31.
He made a 20-foot-high sand sculpture that took eight days to sculpt. The name of the sculpture is World Peace. He carved the face of Mahatma Gandhi and the three famous monkeys who teach not to see evil, hear evil or speak evil.
Pattnaik has so far participated in 25 international sandsculpture competitions and festivals around the world and won many prizes. Sudarsan had done India proud by winning the public prize in the sandsation — international sand sculpture championship at zitty-park in Berlin near the German Parliament house in 2004. He sculpted in sand a 25ft. high image of Hanuman.
Sudarshan, who has been creating sand sculptures for the past 14 years in the beach town of Puri, provides training to youngsters at his Open Air Golden Sand Art Institute in Puri.