Published: 12th May 2021
This radio show is engaging rural children from Karnataka's villages who have no access to tech
EarlySpark's Nityanand Channur, speaks about how they are keeping rural kids hooked to the radio through a storytelling programme called Katha Kalarava. This programme has become a hit among kids
Every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon, children in the tiny village of Kamattagi in North Karnataka gather at a petty shop, not to siphon off free toffee, but to listen to the stories that are aired on the Dharwad Radio Station. It's one of the few things that has kept them engaged since schools were shut last year. Like the children in Kamattagi, other children in districts all across North Karnataka also eagerly wait this show on the radio. An anomaly in the age of WhatsApp and YouTube, you think? Not if your parents don't have smartphones and lots of data, it isn't.
Put it down to how engaging these Kannada stories are. Created by EarlySpark, a curriculum programme and early childhood education founded by Smita Deshpande to restream and reorient students and teachers recently, Katha Kalarava the programme has been a huge hit as it gives them everything from Aesop's Fables to more contemporary stories.
Teachers and children took out some time during Vidyagama classes and listened to Aesop's fables on radio
Nithyanand Channur, Director, EarlySpark explains how it all came about, "India is going through the second phase of COVID-19 and schools have been closed for more than a year now. Therefore, there are chances of rural children not only forgetting their lessons but also missing out on the skills that they need to develop in their early childhood. We were trying to find different ways and methods to help children in the age group of 7 to 12 develop skills during lockdown. But many of them did not have access to the internet. Most parents of these kids didn't have smartphones or couldn't afford to pay for an internet pack. When we were researching ways to reach out to a large number of kids in North Karnataka we thought of our oldest mode of communication, radio. We spoke to the Prasar Bharati team and understood that the All India Radio station in Dharwad caters to 12 different districts in North Karnataka."
The next step was seeing how well it would work in times such as these. He admits, "When we started the Katha Kalarava programme last September, we thought that the children or people wouldn't be interested in listening to a radio show. But we received a lot of positive response from a large number of teachers, parents and children. What made the programme more interesting for them was the question that we asked about the story told each time. They could send their answers through any medium — from a Whatsapp text or a voice recording to even a postcard. Every week, we received many letters and messages and filed them because they left us with good memories." So far, they have received over 3,000 such responses from children.
While listening to the programme on radio, they wore masks and maintained
So what are these stories all about? he says, "When we started off, we narrated Aesop's Fables and short stories for kids. Our team would create a script with characters and then we would send it to the team at the Dharwad Radio Station. Their team would add the sounds, music and so on, produce and broadcast it across different places in North Karnataka. Later, we spoke to Tejaswini Niranjana who is the daughter of Anupama Niranjana, a famous fiction and non-fiction author. She readily let us pick stories written by her mother to narrate them on radio. Later, we began to speak about famous personalities like Salim Ali, the popular ornithologist, Saalumarada Thimmakka and stories written by other regional authors in Kannada and English."
Every month, the EarlySpark team produced ten stories and aired them on radio. "After the completion of ten stories by the end of every month, we record the responses and play it on radio as well. We usually look at how many children have been constantly responding to more than seven to eight stories in that month. For such kids, we send drawing kits, story books and so on. So far, we have recorded more than 50 episodes. We hope to continue this programme and keep the children entertained and enlightened," he concludes.