Bhubaneswar, Orissa: For them it was nothing less than freedom at midnight. There were no class rooms, no teachers to dictate the day’s time table. There was more space to explore, more new things to see than they could imagine. And thus, it was with pomp that the Sishu Pratibha Utsav (Children’s Day Celebration) which brought together more than 300 children from across the state with the joint effort of OPEPA (Orissa Primary Education Programme) and UNICEF was launched on 14th November -2008.
While there were a host of guests on the main stage including Education Minister, Sanjiv Sahu; Minister for Tourism, Debi Prasad Mishra; UNICEF Orissa, State Representative, Shadrack Omol; Director, OPEPA, Nikunja Bihari Dhal; the real centre of attraction were the children at the stalls and different activity corners.
The programme had a complete package for the children to explore: new vistas to explore in the science exhibition section, new horizons to scan in the “Mathematics Can Be Fun” stall, and interesting things to learn in the “Reading Can Be Fun” corner.
While reading different books enriched their minds, there were opportunities to experience the world of creativity by writing down their thoughts and aspirations in the community story book at the stall. Many stories that were never heard flowed from the combined hearts and minds of the children writing a sentence with others joining in with theirs, connecting lines and souls to create a new world more suitable for them to grow in.
But it was the child reporters from Koraput who emerged as the star attraction of the show, exhibiting the inner potential of children waiting to be unleashed. The innovative process of using journalism as a tool for child participation attracted many visitors, both young and old. The child reporters, with their art of uncompromising queries and enthusiasm, took little time to impress the Education Minister and other learned dignitaries with their innocent but pointed questions.
Later, during his interaction with the child reporters, OPEPA Director, Dhal, enquired about the possibility of holding such state level events in the remote corners of the state like Koraput. The positive response was quick and reassuring, not only from the child reporters of Koraput, but also from the other children, implying that such a move would generate more opportunities for children’s participation, particularly in far-flung or marginalized areas.
Apart from exploring and exchanging new thoughts and ideas, it was interesting to see the enthusiasm to learn new words, paint, and discover things that could be done to realize their dreams in the “Reading Can Be Fun” stall managed by Bakul Foundation of Bhubaneswar. While reading different books enriched their minds, there were opportunities to experience the world of creativity by writing down their thoughts and aspirations in the community story book at the stall. Many stories that were never heard flowed from the combined hearts and minds of the children writing a sentence with others joining in with theirs, connecting lines and souls to create a new world more suitable for them to grow in.
Participating in the “Mock Assembly” session, children from different corners of the state joined hands with the children of the state’s capital bringing observation to reality. With skillful imitation they enacted sessions of the state assembly in the High School ground, their actions and words mimicking real leaders as seen through their eyes.
The participating children had the opportunity to discuss in presence of decision makers, issues ranging from basic education for all to the health scenario of the state – issues that could not be ignored.
The end of the two-day event saw partners and stakeholders resolve to encourage children to explore, to listen to them and more importantly, to heed what they say. The children truly have created their own niche.