Scripting success from New York to Pune: Through theatre, city girl aims to bridge socio-economic divide

A liberal arts student in her second year at NYU, Diwase decided to pilot her venture, ‘learning through drama’, in her hometown, Pune.

Written by Nisha Nambiar | Pune | Updated: August 17, 2015 2:04:44 am
Children from two schools have been given training in drama for two months Children from two schools have been given training in drama for two months

It all began with a thought on social entrepreneurship for Puneite Arya Diwase. She participated in a programme at the New York University, NYU Reynolds Programme in Social Entrepreneurship, and went on to bag a stipend for her concept from the NYU Stern School of Business’s Social Impact.

A liberal arts student in her second year at NYU, Diwase decided to pilot her venture, ‘learning through drama’, in her hometown, Pune. The venture aims to address various social issues through drama. It brings together student volunteers to train other children.

“Initially, I tried for the Reynolds programme. However, the model that my friend Raghav Saraogi and I came up with was creative and we applied for the NYU Stern School of Business’s Social Impact. We bagged it and got a stipend of 2000 dollars. We decided to take the venture forward in our own city this summer. I came back in June and started reaching out to like-minded people for the programme and we got it rolling by mid-June,’’ said Arya on
the initiative.

Arya’s concept of using drama as a creative curriculum to enhance linguistic skills among children has been under experimentation for the last two months with children from two Pune schools.

At least 150 children from two schools, Sant Tukaram school and Vidyaniketan school, have been training to take centre-stage at Pandit Bhimsen Joshi auditorium Monday.

“This is just the initial phase. The children will exhibit their training on stage and it could not have been possible without my large group of volunteers who have been reaching out to the children every day for two hours,’’ said Arya.

She had zeroed in on this programme to address the “unequal education opportunities” and huge socio-economic class divide among children.

Arya said that the initiative began with a team of five volunteers, comprising her high school friends. They approached the PMC with their proposal. “They instantly agreed and sent an official letter for the programme and thus the sessions began,’’ she said.

The programme started with basic vocabulary and pronunciation classes, followed by developing drama skills among the students with the help of the volunteers. “I got an overwhelming 80 volunteers who were eager to help out for the pilot project. These high school students engaged the children in a drama production to enhance their written and verbal English skills. It fostered a relationship between the children and the student facilitators.”
The venture was named ‘Jazz hands’, a term used in dance to symbolise enthusiasm.

“When we started out, we just tackled the problem of inadequate English teaching resources. However, it has turned out to be a venture that teaches us to be sensitive about the conditions of people around us, encouraging long lasting relationships between the volunteers and children,’’ said Arya.

She added that the children have become more confident, not just about speaking English, but also about being able to express their thoughts. She said that although the performance would mark the culmination of the two-month programme, her volunteer friends wanted to keep the project on, throughout the year.

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