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In India, out of 6 million teaching positions in government schools, about 900,000 elementary school teaching positions and 100,000 in secondary school—put together, a million—are vacant, says a report. Forget about having one teacher per subject. The math is that one teacher is handling all the subjects, for all the children of 5 different classes under one roof. Not just that, there are high rates of school dropouts as well, particularly in the rural belt of India. And why is that? Well, apart from the financial constraints, one of the primary reasons is that these children are losing interest in studies.

With an aim to make education interesting through art, a social enterprise SHURUA(R)T is working to help school children express their thoughts and emotions through drawings. While talking to Life Beyond Numbers, Co-founder and the CEO of Shurua(r)t, Sana Sabah says, I think India has failed their children and I feel art can liberate them and make their souls grow.”

Shurua(r)t started as an art selling company on Dec 25, 2014, and now it is an artist development program. Even though it is restricted to Varanasi only, but their Let’s Start Art initiative is changing lives for the better. However, Camlin took care of the art-supply needs in the first year of the programme. Now the organization has started a fundraiser on Ketto to raise more funds so that it can reach out to more students and schools.

Sana with two of her happy Shurua(r)t students…

Sana(28) hails from Varanasi and through her noble initiative, she plans to find artists in the students of this city. “Half of the nine-year-old from the government primary schools cannot do a sum as simple as eight plus nine. Half of ten-year-old Indians cannot read a paragraph meant for seven-year-olds. This needs to change, urgently and art is a path towards undoing this scenario.”

Healing Trauma through Art

Studies have proven time and again that when traumatized children are given a safe environment to express themselves, they’re able to shed their skin of shame and isolation. It’s as simple as this: Adults are articulate with words, children are not. “You and I have exact words of how we feel about certain things, and can share it exactly with the world,” says Sana.

Doesn’t sharing certain thoughts help you to get rid of a burden? Equipping children with any sort of artistic expression makes them share their feelings, provided they feel safe and trusted. Criticism of those creations is an absolute no. Once they’re able to share, they’re able to heal.

Sana says, “The program includes sessions that revolve around a theme that the child might have had an experience of. We ask them to draw their experiences, or if they want to change something about it. No instructions or any sort of criticism on the details of drawings are given to the children.

Watch the video here-

The initiative tackles the problems in 2 stages

  1. The financial and professional inclusion of artists from Tier 2/3 cities and,
  2. Sparking the much-required creativity through art workshops among students of Government Primary Schools, where art is not a part of the curriculum.

Sana says, “We have spoken to teachers of primary schools, teachers told us that after the drawing sessions started in the school, many kids have now become more confident in drawing diagrams from their science books.

Blending Science and Art

As of now, we are focusing mostly on freeing the child from the chains of hesitation that they have for their school and their studies. But we believe this freedom would affect other areas of their education as well.

Despite the divergence between arts and sciences, a growing body of quantitative research suggests that the learning of science may be enhanced through a relationship with the arts. To improve the outcomes in some of the poorest performing schools in the United States, they are using art education and initial results have been positive.

Impact of Art on Child Psychology

The whole idea of teaching children discipline by punishing them hardly does any good to these children. Sana feels, “Punishment never ever goes a long way. When you treat children with trust and kindness they will never fail you.

Shurua(r)t

Art should be one place where they can just be themselves, without any fear of being judged, feels a renowned artist Chandrakant Channe, who has been working in the field of child art from the past 25 years, said in a meeting with Shurua(r)t. He says, “In almost everything a child decides to do, they face a lot of rules and constraints. Therefore it is essential to put more emphasis on creating a safe and healthy environment for the child to draw. Once you do that, you can see the wonders they can come up with on paper. The minds of children should be given the wings to soar the skies of their own imagination.”

Another person working in this field, Anant Bowlekar feels that “documenting the drawings of children is necessary because children do draw what they think or feel. Their drawings can, in fact, be a way of understanding their emotions and narrative.”

Stemming the Tide of School Dropouts

Compared to Urban schools, children drop out from school early in the rural areas. Therefore, it is essential that the students find education in school interesting enough to stay and learn.

Sana feels, “It is sad that many schools are not very comfortable in sharing their data with an organization as small as ours, so we don’t really have a numeric proof of our impact, but this year, we’re going to collaborate with Pratham to measure the effect of our art sessions. Hopefully, we’ll soon be having a data-backed proof of how art positively affects education.”

How Can You Help?

The initiative lets anyone conduct the sessions but doesn’t involve people as volunteers unless they’re willing to offer a full-time contribution. Even though one can help as an instructor, but Sana says, “It takes a while for children to bond with people. Hence, we do not change the instructors very often.” Adding to this she says, “The organization hires artists from BHU to conduct these sessions for us, and one of us (from Shurua(r)t) join them to document the whole thing. But for one class the artist has to conduct all the sessions for at least a year.”

You may also contribute to their fundraiser here.

The program has been implemented in Bhadaini Primary School, Nagwa Primary School, LT College Campus Primary School, near Orderly bazaar, and 2 schools at Normal School, Shivpur.  Apart from that, Shurua(r)t also conducts their sessions in schools run by other organizations.

Last year, in 2017, they also conducted art sessions at “LOKA”, a school in Aurangabad, Bihar, and at Shikwa Haveli in Baghpat. “We now want to take the initiative forward and expand it to more schools, aiming at least 10 primary schools in Varanasi during this academic year (2018-19),” she adds.

Though none of the schools require special attention, the new ones are tough to handle and it needs trust and understanding to connect with them- is what her experience tells.

In 2006, then 84-year-old American writer Kurt Vonnegut wrote a letter to a class of school children who had asked him to visit. He was Too ill to travel, thus he wrote to them- Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out whats inside you, to make your soul grow.