Published: 21st April 2021
School Radio is a platform where the youth and children of India can voice their opinions on important subjects
School Radio was set up by Aruna Gali in 2015 to offer students a platform where they can voice their opinions on important subjects from gender issues to water scarcity
The stories of so many children go untold in India. Some voices are distorted, some draw to a close before they even begin and some just don’t find the light of day. When Aruna Gali won a Laadli Award (a media award for gender sensitivity) and a host of recognitions for her blog representing the lives of women in agriculture, their lack of access to technology and loans, she realised how empowering a platform could be and, more over, how a voice loud enough to be heard could be.
“I just wish I had that voice sooner,” she says, “I think of all the things that I could have said and all the worlds that children like me could have opened a window to.” On February 13 of 2015, World Radio Day, she lent a mic to students between the ages of 9 to 21 years with this specific intention in mind through School Radio, a radio platform for students based in Andhra Pradesh. Currently, it is incubated at NSRCEL, IIM Bengaluru. Here’s our brief conversation with her about how she knew she had the responsibility to amplify the voices of India’s most beloved:
1. What was the first thought that led to School Radio?
The purpose behind setting up School Radio was quite personal. As a child, I was possessed by shyness and a lack of confidence to speak up, even though I really wanted to express myself. It’s true for many students in India, the push is just not there and, in most cases, the opportunity. We often find ourselves waiting for someone to give us that opportunity. Children are pulled back by this fear. And that is the only thing holding them back. Apart from that, all of us want to speak, express ourselves and be confident. The entire process boosts a child up and helps build their confidence.
2. How did you come into the field of education?
When we were setting this up, my partner, Uday Kumar Gali, and I had already been working with children for two decades through various programmes. We had been involved in radio and video production in addition to environment education in schools, working with the youth in waste management and related topics. So we knew that they wanted to express themselves but they weren't coming forward even though they had the creativity, talent and imagination. Each individual is unique but if they don’t know it, they are letting go of an opportunity.
3. What kind of work does School Radio do?
We offer a separate channel and platform to each school that takes a subscription with us. School Radio gives students the opportunity to create their own content, be it academic or non-academic. It is their interest and choice. The only rulebook that they have to follow is the Indian Constitution. They must keep in mind that they must not violate the constitutional rights of any individual, religion or community. This must be kept in mind. And within this, they are allowed to go ahead and create their own work. There are no boundaries.
We wanted to focus more on the youth and children to make them understand the importance of working in teams and groups. This includes showing them why group discussions are needed and what 21st century life skills are important, especially showing empathy, taking responsibility and leading a team. These have all been developed as a module and facilitated by training. That is why we started this.
4. How does a school join the project?
When an institution chooses a package, we give them their own channels. Following the pandemic, all our work has gone online and we have been working only with Laurel High Global School in Rajahmundry. We are now in the process of starting again. We have partnered with many government schools, AP State social welfare and tribal welfare schools. We are also working with a government school for visually-challenged children in Sagar Nagar, Visakhapatnam. We work really hard to be an inclusive organisation and promote the voice of each child, irrespective of their physical, emotional or cognitive skills.
IN THE NET: During COVID, School Radio moved online
5. Could you describe the impact of the programme?
Over the past few years, we have worked directly with over 50 schools in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Otherwise, over the last one year, we have been working online with different educational institutions in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra and 20 other states. Through our work, we have learnt that children have a lot of knowledge that they want to share with others but somehow they are behind, not because they don't have the knowledge, but an inability to open up. We encourage loud and outspoken children, something Indian education has always been trailing behind on.
6. What do children learn through the programme?
Currently, we have online training. After orientation and our content creation modules, they get the chance to actually participate in radio and create their own programmes. There are many options. One is to exclusively participate during special occasions like World Environment Day, Earth Day, Women’s Day or World Water Day. This offers them the chance to learn more about these subjects, especially through the research that has to go into their content. After gaining this knowledge, they start exploring more about it in school, college or their homes and start applying that knowledge. They change their surroundings within their capacity. This helps them become leaders and decision-makers.
There are year long programmes that we are in the process of resuming now. These are regular programmes where you find children speaking about gender issues, water, sanitation, energy, waste management and any topics they choose. Recently, storytellers across India participated and narrated in different languages. We also recently concluded the first season of Stories Of Changemakers where stories across India were captured and broadcasted in addition to publishing a multimedia book on their lives. Now, we just held our Earth Day workshop on April 14.