SHIKSHAMITRA is a process for learning to live better. It is a space where one

learns to keep well and to help others keep well too. Shikshamitra has an address.

However, it goes beyond this – permeating into the lives of many, influencing

one’s choices in life and ways of life. To be associated with Shikshamitra is to assume

the responsibility of trying to live better. It is a continuous attempt to search for

activities that inspire life and build trust, or, it is an attempt to keep away from

anything to the contrary. Shikshamitra is a means toward becoming aware of

how much one can be and knowing exactly what one’s limitations are.

January 28, 2009

Taking the ART IN EDUCATION Exhibition into the Community

23 JANUARY, 2009 • 2-6 P.M.

It had long been our founding teacher/social worker, Sukhendu’s, dream to take Shikshamitra into the community by holding an interactive exhibition in the local club. Unfortunately, in 2006 we got involved in holding the huge Bal Vividha festival and this community exhibition had to be postponed. Last month (12-14 December 2008), after holding the highly successful exhibition at school, we discussed the idea with Kishore, the secretary of Alipore Junior Sporting Club (AJS Club) and the parents and everyone was very enthusiastic about holding such an event in their locality. As the exhibits were already with us, this was also the right time. So this became a joint venture between Shikshamitra and A.J.S. Club. The venue was the club courtyard. The community was notified through six posters hung at strategic points in and around the locality. Mousumi, our current social worker(Sukhendu’s wife), was in charge and received supprt from Sipra and Biswajit.

On 19 January, parents were invited for a creative session in the school. They drew, they painted, made attractive needle work pieces, and tried their hands at clay work. As they munched at their snacks and sipped tea, the initial nervousness vanished. Soon they giggled and commented on each other’s work. Maura, our art teacher, was approached and mothers requested her to take English classes for them! A bit reluctantly, the only father in the group made a drawing – perhaps the first since he finished schooling himself. All of these were displayed at the community exhibition and the mothers managed their exhibits by themselves.

By 8:30 a.m., everybody had assembled in the school. Ador, a Shikshamitra student, came with his rickshaw van and took all the exhibits to the venue. It was a great feeling to go together as a Shikshamitra team and start the preparations. Unfortunately the previous day, 22 Jan., was a Bandh (strike) and we had a serious discussion on the 20th about canceling the exhibition. Thanks to Kishore, the ever-enterprising Club Secretary (supporting us from the beginning) and the decorator, Sachin, the entire zone was cordoned off neatly on the morning of the 23rd and was available for us to work on the displays.

To our surprise, Bijoy Das (an ex-student who lasted six months) and Biswajit Das (a ragpicker who lasted 2 days) were the main people sweeping the premises. Biswajit even reminded me that he was one of the first students at Shikshamitra.

• It just took us (6 teachers and 8 students) 2.5 hours to finish putting up the displays; an hour more was spent in detailing and giving technical touches. It was an example of wonderfully synchronized team work.

• The feeling of doing the exhibition in the community was very different, as it was we, the Shikshamitra teachers, who were the outsiders. The insiders were our student community, their mothers, Kishore and his associates from the club. We were comfortably assisting them to make the show a success. They knew every nook and corner and were climbing and crouching everywhere to make the place look its very best. We tried hard to sense the pulse of the community – adding exhibits or canceling some.

• Although the program was intended to start at 2 p.m. we found that we had started a couple of hours early! In a happening community such as this, one cannot restrict children and adults. They just walked in when they got the time!

• From morning, adults and children queried about the Sit and Draw Corner, which they were very familiar with from previous events we have put on. We warned them, with our usual mottoe, that there would be “no prizes because everyone is a winner.” Groups of children in all sizes used the colours and drew til their hearts’ content with family members and friends urging them to do well. The show was staffed by our students, Samrat and Boloram, and teachers Biswajit and Mousumi. Simultaneously, children thronged together to shape things out of clay. Doing the artwork was contagious. Adults, men, and women tried their hand at claywork and some of their pieces were rather original. Mohon, Shantanu, and Shiladitya supervised. The pieces were all put on display and people seemed proud.

• The show was stolen by the enthusisasm shown by all the young readers. They were glued to the library book display we had set out. Colourful books, with 2-4 lines per page, were chosen on purpose. There were also some more difficult ones out. The sheer colour and simplicity of these books stole their young hearts. The attraction was that they could read easily, loudly and move on to the next one quickly. A small child (4-5 years) simply hugged a book, feeling it, and then … even smelling the book too!! Older children (13-14) also refused to leave the books. Children rushed in, dragging their parents and grandparents along. They had come with money. They wanted to buy the books. How dismayed they were when we told them that these were our library books and not for sale! We all knew what the next step would be –starting a weekly library at the club premises!

Many enquired about the school, as they gazed into the charts. Volunteers like Shantanu, Sajahan, Ador, Rohit and even little Neha, did a great job managing the people, especially all the rowdy children. Photographs displayed (from our interesting science classes and our vibrant E.V.S. classes at school) drew many visitors. It was a learning experience for us all. A community exhibition needs more hands-on displays, many more photographs and less written materials. Shikshamitra put up a mime show, dance performance and storytelling at the end of the show – compiled by Bickey, from our upper class.

It took us just about a half hour to dismantle the show – once again, teamwork at its best. By 6:30 pm, we were back at school with everything. Enjoying the evening snack, we called it a day just around 7:15 pm – a super success by all means .

Sudeshna Sinha