Published: 21st August 2021
This theatre company run by a retired teacher couple is helping kids widen their imagination during the lockdown
This retired teacher couple is trying to set the trend of keeping your screens aside and engage in there to help imagine and stimulate your brain
India is rethinking its education model. We have new propositions, new ideas — and it's not necessary that you have to agree with them but there's change. But is formal education enough? Avik Ghosh from West Bengal's Shantiniketan says no. This retired school teacher is showing kids the way to open up their imagination. Right from home. All they need is a little help from their family, says Ghosh.
After they retired, Ghosh and his wife, Gargi, formed the Children's Theatre Academy Shantiniketan in late 2019 and are now urging kids to take out a little time from their otherwise screen-infested schedule, to perform skits and one-act plays whenever they can. You can include your siblings, your parents or whoever is there at home and act out any scene from a story you love, says Ghosh in a video on their Facebook page. "That message was meant more for the parents than the kids. Now that they are at home, a little activity together will not only strengthen the parent-child bond but getting involved in an activity like this will also help in their development as a human being," says Ghosh.
But how does one carve out time in today's busy schedule? Even if the parents are stuck at home now, the work pressure has not come down. "But it does give them more time at home. My suggestion was that they can take a few minutes to engage with the children and that can be through these short plays," says Ghosh who taught Geography during his years teaching. He explains that it does not even have to be planned or structured. And the couple has illustrated a few examples in their video — explaining in graphic detail how it can be done. You can use your furniture and things around you as props and that pushes the child's imagination even more.
Both of them are graduates of the erstwhile Presidency College in Kolkata and have been teachers in various schools across the state for over two decades. "We have always felt that children learn much more from things outside the syllabus than from books. Not just us but many celebrated educators have felt this way. Research done on the brain has proven that the way our education system works — mostly dependent on how well you can remember things — helps develop only a part of the brain while the rest of it remains dormant. Theatre helps that. It helps imagination. But no school has theatre as a subject. They do have performances for a special occasion but not as a subject," he says. "There are teachers who guide the students during these performances and they do it because they like it — we have actively participated in these performances when we were teachers. We did it because we enjoyed it and that enjoyment is contagious. Children too are under no pressure because they are not marked on these performances. They enjoy it to the core. In all these years of experience, we have seen that a structured setup might help in honing skill but not in developing imagination. The more out of structure it is the more it flourishes," he adds.
The Children's Theatre Academy Shantiniketan has been organising workshops for kids, adolescents and young adults since 2019. But as they found their groove, the pandemic and the lockdown threw them off balance. But they have since shifted online. Since do not they believe that you cannot perform theatre online, they have been putting up videos of such suggestions for children and their parents to follow at home. Apart from this, they have planned a set of lectures on Rabindranath Tagore and his work, one each month, for a year. "There will be 12 lectures which will be released in the middle of every month. At the end of it all if one feels that they want to get a certification for the time they have spent, we will organise a test for them and give them a certificate," says Ghosh. But he has a disclaimer too — the certificate is only a recognition of the hard work but he is not quite sure whether it can go into your CV. The lectures are meant for students of Classes 9 to 12 or even young adults. "It might be tough for younger kids to grasp these concepts," he agrees.