Raising voices against harmful traditional practices
By Sarada Lahangir
It was all like a dream for Jayanti Sabar, a class 10th student of Nalini Bidya Mandir of Bariguda, Rayagada district, Orissa. She came to the state capital, met the Governor of Orissa and presented her science project. “I have always read about the Governor, and the Chief Minister of Orissa, and seen them on TV, but never imagined that I would see them and talk to them. I would relive the memories before my friends at Bariguda”, she gushed happily.
13 years old Bonda girl Lachi Jagadi studies in class eight. She has boarded a train for the first time in her life. “None of our relatives and family member has seen a train. When I told them that I am going to Bhubaneswar riding a train, they worshipped the Goddess and were very happy.”
Like Jayanti and Lachi, there are 600 children who have different kind of experiences to share from the three days long children’s fair or “Shishu prativa Utsav-2006”. The festival is a joint effort of the Department of School and Mass Education – Government of Orissa and UNICEF. Children of 19 educational circles from all over the state have participated.
“Each and every child has some talent and creativity which they need to express. This was a unique forum where the children can freely show their talent, creativity and potential. An atmosphere is provided to them where they can learn, enjoy while showing their talent”, said Suresh Chandra Patnaik, Commissioner-cum-Secretary, School and Mass Education department.
Apart from the traditional debate, essay, painting and quiz competition there were a lot of interesting activities, which provided for the all round enjoyment and development of the children.
The Science exhibition was one of the major events of the three day festival. The children showcased numerous models which showed the practical application of science and the ingenuity of the children in harnessing the concepts. One of them was the process to produce “golden rice” (brown rice) that will have ample amount of vitamin A and thereby help in eliminating the Vitamin A deficiency .This project brought by Subrat Ku. Sahoo of Mayurbhanj district was highly appreciated.
Then there was the student group which had developed a Tsunami early warning system, a low cost washing machine and also Bio Diesel as alternative fuel.
The second day brought further interesting engagements; a students parliament. It started on the day the Orissa Legislative Assembly convened their winter session. Besides the enthusiastic participation of students as ministers, Prime Minister, Speaker of the House and Opposition arguing on topical issues, the student assembly was also witnessed by the Finance minister and the School and Mass Education minister of the Government of Orissa.,
The children parliamentarians whipped up the environment with inspired discussions on latest issues taking center stage in Orissa, like the killing of tribal in Kalinganagar, the recent stampede at the Puri temple, notification on Child Labor and Government response, looming industrialization in Orissa and the problem of Displacement etc.., The assembly also debated on the recent move of the government to introduce Sex Education in schools under the School AIDS Education Program.
“It was not so easy to act as the leader of opposition. I had learnt and prepared myself diligently to perform his role”, said Jeet Basa, the Leader of Opposition in the Children’s parliament.
The participating children conducted a cycle rally on the morning of 14th November, the children’s day and carried messages on Girls education, HIV AIDS awareness and child rights. And then the children interacted with successful personalities who were invited from different fields.
“I feel fortunate to get an opportunity to interact with so many-renowned personalities of our state on one platform. I am impressed by our Indian Administrative topper Ms. Rupa Mishra who has become my role model. I wanted to be like her and serve my state”, said Ms. Gudia Kandh a student of Class VII of Sambalpur with sparkling eyes.
Meeting different personalities was another important event for the children. They met the Commissioner-Right to Information, senior bureaucrats, Educationists, Famous Singers, President Awardees, Subject toppers, other successful men and women and asked them various questions on the life and times, both learning through the interaction.
“We have tried to promote some kind of sharing and to make aware the children about different development issues. This year the theme has been learning for living which included reaching the socially excluded and different caste groups, specially the vulnerable groups. The festival has also raised the general awareness level and is also about creating a sharing and nurturing relationship among children”, said Lalita Patnaik, the Education project officer UNICEF.
The most exciting event for the children was the daily evening cultural competitions. The cultural programme was not merely a song and dance show but also educative with many programs integrating life skills into them and pertinent messages on HIV AIDS, child labor and other issues igniting their thoughts.
The Chief Minister of Orissa spent time with the children and said that the dedication and strong will power shown by the kids would definitely help them in future.
“I have made lot of friends in these three days. I also could know many things and share my thoughts and I will definitely try to come next year, said Mitali, a Class IV student summing up the festival mood.