St Joseph's College, Bowbazar, is a boys' higher secondary school
where we went for a workshop on Identity conducted by Sumeet Thakur
as a part of the PeaceWorks School curriculum with boys from Class
9 on the first day (4th February, 2008) and Class 11 on the second
day (5th February, 2008). We met the Class 9 boys in a sprawling
library and all the boys seemed enthusiastic to begin. Sumeet
started them off with a fun warm-up game which required the boys
to concentrate on passing an imaginary ball amongst them as they
stood in a wide circle.
This was followed by Sumeet making ‘statements’ while
the boys sat on the floor with their eyes shut. They were to raise
their right hand if they agreed with his statement, and their
left hand if they disagreed with the statements made. They were
not ‘allowed’ to remain undecided/neutral.
Next, the boys were divided into teams and asked to write
down 3 things which made them similar to each other in the team
and 3 things which made them different from the rest. Then each
team had to come up and stand on top of a black box and "perform"
their similarities and differences. All the teams, rapped, rocked
and innovated their way through their 5 minutes of fame in front
of their classmates. Each team tried to outdo the other, and the
result was an almost impromptu talent show!
Finally, all this boiled down to a much more sobering discussion
on various social issues, reservations, corruption in Indian politics
and environmental consciousness. Why is it so difficult for us to
live in peace despite everyone's individual differences? Many felt
illiteracy was a major cause of such problems and that only a few
troublemakers tended to tarnish the images of entire communities
with regard to ethnic violence. We also encouraged them to take
part in the upcoming PeaceWorks
festival and put up a presentation on behalf of their school, and
most seemed eager to comply.
The last exercise, to wind up, was one showing the value of co-operation.
In this the boys had to successively use each of their fingers to
hold a pencil and write the word "PeaceWorks" on a sheet
of paper. Once they could use all their fingers together, it turned
out to be the most successful of the trials thus demonstrating that
greater efforts can be achieved if everyone co-operates with each
other despite individual differences. Singly, even a simple task
can seem quite difficult.
The next day, the three of us returned to St Joseph's and this time
the workshop took place in their gigantic assembly hall. This time
we were to meet boys from Class 11. These older boys immediately
struck us as different from their junior counterparts. Much more
serious. They,too, took part in the game of "Zip Zap Zoom"
and once again, this game acted as the ice-breaker. Then. One by
one, the boys came forward and lead the others in a
series of random movements.
Then came the familiar round of Similarities and Differences. There
were 3 teams this time. They wrote what made each of them different
from the rest. But when it was their turn to perform out their lists,
it became quite apparent that a number of them suffered from stage-fright!
This was then followed by animated discussion and the desire to
‘right’ ‘wrong’. The kids also appeared
keen to become PeaceWorks volunteers. To ‘do something concrete’.
Very keen on wanting to participate beyond the ‘school agenda’.
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