Chala UP school students launch ‘Nataka Yatra’ against alcoholism, drugs

Abhilash, an 11-year-old who barely reached the microphone, played the ‘reformed’ character in the Kakkarissi Natakam staged by the students of the Chala Government Upper Primary School.

With flowers stuck to the side of his head and face painted jet black, he shuffled onto the stage — the road outside the school at Aryashala — and announced his exhaustion. Two female characters reprimanded him for indulging in alcohol and drugs and driving his family to financial distress.

The satirical dance-drama performed by students of classes 6 and 7 then portrayed a mother who was searching for her missing son. He turned up lost, droopy, and confessed that he took drugs to be ‘accepted’. Students then sang rhetorical questions to the audience of shop vendors and onlookers, asking them whether they wanted the same fate to befall them.

It was powerful stuff from primary school students and they were not merely reciting lines they had been taught. They understood the relevance of the cause they were propagating.

Soon after the performance outside the school on Thursday afternoon, Health Standing Committee chairperson of the Corporation S. Pushpalatha flagged off the ‘Nataka Yatra’ organised by the school with the support of the Janamaithri wing of the Fort police station. They performed at four junctions around the school, including the Shiva Kovil and Puthenkota areas.

Class 6 student Dhanush recalled a session held at the school by a doctor from the Regional Cancer Centre. “He spoke of cancer and how alcohol and drugs caused it,” said the 11-year-old. Parent Teacher Association president of the school N. Sundaran Pillai said that at the class, held two weeks ago, students were prompted to go home and speak to their parents about the impact of such habits.

There is an added benefit in it for the 136-year-old school. New admissions were dropping at an alarming rate in government schools, and such activities provided them much-needed publicity, Mr. Pillai said. In fact, ever since the school began their social awareness programmes — such as last year’s dengue prevention drive — the number of students enrolling in the school increased.