Puppet plays to spotlight health causes

A workshop for government school teachers is being organised by Sri Aurobindo Society’s Svarnim as part of a project to train children in puppetry for health communication. Photo: Special Arrangement  

Children at government schools will soon be showcasing their own puppet plays to highlight health causes relevant to peer communities under an initiative supported by the Department of Science and Technology.

The project, led by Sri Aurobindo Society’s Svarnim Puducherry initiative, is being implemented at 10 government schools, in collaboration with the Directorate of School Education, Puducherry, with the support of the NCSTC Division of the Department of Science and Technology. “As top-down form of health communication can be monotonous for children, we thought we would replace passive learning with a participatory model that would be an entirely student-driven exercise,” said T.P. Raghunath, Svarnim Director.

The initiative, launched under Svarnim’s School Health Action Research Project (SHARP), looks at tapping into the simpler tools of traditional theatre with the aim of disseminating key health-related communication for action-oriented results among schoolchildren.

A one-day brainstorming session was held for nodal teachers drawn from the 10 government schools. The workshop would develop key information content. It would then be converted into live and fun-filled puppetry programmes by children themselves who will make their own puppets and create health communication skits at their schools and in neighbourhood-communities, which would result in a participatory people’s movement for better health awareness and hence preventive healthcare.

The workshop was led by R. Senthilkumar, Programme Coordinator, SHARP, Sri Aurobindo Society. About 20 teachers and health professionals are participating in the workshop which will lead to people’s health initiatives as a model for preventive healthcare.

“As soon as schools reopen some time in the second week of November, we are looking at the prospect of having a smaller workshop for children selected by teachers to outline the possibilities of puppet theatre. The programme is designed in such a way that teachers confine themselves to a catalyst role and leave the rest to the creativity and imagination of children. They will have the freedom to choose whether to make puppets from socks or recycled fabric, determine the storyline and cast the characters they want to convey their message through,” said Mr. Raghunath.

After school performances, the plays will be staged in communities. He pointed to the need for conceived health communication in adolescent groups as an SAS health survey sometime ago had flagged key concerns that included both dimensions of malnutrition — obesity and low BMIs — and hygiene issues.

The SAS expects to complete the pilot project by the year-end and get the children ready with the 15-20-minute puppet shows by the Pongal season. Based on the response, the SAS-Education Department collaboration is likely to roll out the project at more schools.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 2:58:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/puppet-plays-to-spotlight-health-causes/article37116998.ece

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