A primary school where lessons are learnt through nukkad natak
Shweta Singh has discovered the impact theatre acting can have on lives. The teacher in Siktaur primary school in Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh uses drama to make students learn better in class and also be social mobilisers in their village.
Aishwarya Tripathi 28 April 2023 9:43 AM GMT
Siktaur (Gorakhpur), Uttar Pradesh
On a breezy morning, a group of third graders huddle underneath a Peepal tree, at the Siktaur primary school.
“Suno suno bhai suno suno, aaj yaha par kya hoga… Natak hoga, Natak hoga,” the performers cry out, inviting people to stop and watch their natak (play).
Dressed neatly in their brown uniforms, Sangam, Srishti, Anshika are about to perform a skit demonstrating the impact of mobile phones on our lives.
The performance begins with the sing-song delivery of lines accompanied with claps. The natak is to be performed in the village chaupal as a social awareness campaign, and the captain of this theatre group is their teacher, 37-year-old Shweta Singh. She had prepared her students for this performance in three days.
“We got the dress, dupatta and together made a mobile phone out of cardboard. It was so exciting. Mam taught all of this to us,” Anshika Nishad, told Gaon Connection.
Shweta joined Siktaur primary school in Khorabar block in Gorakhpur district, Uttar Pradesh in 2010 to teach Class III. As most of the syllabus involved stories and poems, the teacher decided to use drama as an entertaining way to engage her students, and get them to remember the lessons better.
Today, Shweta’s class of 48 enthralled students, listens to the story, Gavaiya Gadha. The excitement grows as the teacher modulates her voice, to switch between the two characters of the story — the donkey and the jackal. Some students crack up with laughter as others watch open mouthed. Shweta has successfully caught the attention of her students.
The students clap loudly in appreciation as the story ends, after which they are called over to the blackboard one by one to write out the difficult words they encountered in the story, such as dhobi, gadha, siyaar, kapda.
Everyone is eager to come up to the blackboard to write.
“Ma’am! Ma’am! Ma’am! Hum hum,” they shout out, to get their teacher’s attention.
Finally, Shikha comes up to the board to make a sentence with the words already there.
“Hum Kapda Pa-Ha-Na-Te..Pahante hain,” the-10-year-old wrote without any spelling mistakes, and walked back with a confident beaming face.
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Mother of an autistic child
Shweta Singh knows how roleplay is important. More so because she depends on it to communicate with her 15-year-old daughter, Aadita, who is autistic.
“Autism is a state where someone has a lot of treasure locked in a trunk, but the key has been thrown away. My daughter finds communication challenging,” Shweta told Gaon Connection.
At the early stage, when Shweta was still learning to deal with her daughter’s condition, she was introduced to the concept of drama being an ideal way to interact with people in the autism spectrum.
“For two years I took training in Lucknow to teach my daughter. There, they taught us picture language and how an autistic child can be calmed down through acting and using facial expressions for communication. This comes handy in my classroom as well because every child comes from a different background,” she said.
“Drama is a very strong medium to explain or spread social messages. I keep making the students do nukkad nataks, which work really well with the rural community, as many are unlettered here. We had done a few on sanitation habits and cleanliness and it did have an impact on the village community,” she said.
Shweta confessed that she was a movie buff right from a young age and loved acting. And, once when she had gone to spend her vacations at an aunt’s, boredom drove her to produce, direct and act in a play, Kittu Gilehri. She played all the roles in the story.
“The kids who came to watch were amazed, and they couldn’t wait to be friends with that-girl-who-played-all-the-characters-in-a-play,” Shweta laughed.
The primary school teacher feels that if lessons are not taught in an engaging way they can haunt the children forever.
“I am so scared of Mathematics, because it was probably never taught in an interesting or entertaining way when I studied it,” she said. That is one reason why she incorporated drama in her teaching.
Sangam Pasvan, one of Shweta’s students, loves his teacher’s acting methodology and himself is quite famous for mimicking animal sounds.
“I can mimic the sound of a dog, cat and donkey. All this has been taught to us by Ma’am. We laugh so hard when she enacts these out,” Pasvan, one of the students in Shweta’s class, told Gaon Connection.
“I am also a fan of movies and keep performing at home as well,” the 12-year-old added.
“When I joined, I didn’t know anything. I now know the tables, months of the year and also read Hindi fluently. Ma’am teaches so well with her acting,” Srishti, another student who only just joined the school three months ago, told Gaon Connection.
Meanwhile, Shweta’s class is in happy chaos as the children are busy braying to each other just like the dhobi’s donkey in the story their teacher just read out to them.
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