Matara, Sri Lanka

Local Schools And Forum Theatre In Sri Lanka

The first part of our community visit today was to go into a local school and help teach about child rights and how to safeguard themselves. Having come from a children and young people background safeguarding is something I am passionate about. All children and young people deserve to live and grow up in a safe environment and be able to tell someone if they are not. The more work we can do to encourage children to talk to us about this the better. So I was excited to see how they do this in Sri Lanka.

Marching Band Welcoming Us
The school were so welcoming. We were greeted by a marching band on arrival, greeted by ladies in beautiful saris given leaves and lead to the front of a ram packed hall of children waiting our arrival. The school children here dress completely in white. White skirt and shit for the girls and white trousers and shirt for the boys sporting blue ties for both. Their uniforms all looked so clean and crisp and they all sat quietly.

Group work
In true universal school style we split into groups and we found out that there were actually 3 different schools. Children had been selected from a boys school, a girls school and a mixed school to come together to talk with each other about this subject. I really liked the idea of mixing new schools together for different opinions although it wasn't clear if this was something they do on a regular occasion or if the children then feed back to their peers at the school to ensure the message reaches as many children as possible. When standing outside in a circle I wondered why the children looked nervous. I soon found out the ambassador from the Ministry of justice worker that was leading the session was going slowly round the circle asking the children to not only introduce their school and name but also show a talent. Not if they would like to it was pretty demanding that you must. I am guessing this is something they do regularly are they were all ready with a song, a poem or a speech. Many of them could really sing and they take speech giving very seriously.

We went back inside and did a few more activities but we took this as the chance to talk to the children. We asked them what they wanted to do when they grew up and 90% of the group said be a doctor. One said he would like to be a DJ and the rest wanted to be engineers. It was so strange for me having worked in schools lots to be with a group of 9-12 year old young people who didn't give answers like singers and movie stars. It shows a clear line of culture in Sri Lanka that even from a young age there is a lot of pressure on education and doing well in school. We asked about art and media and found they all put more value on science and maths. The most interesting subject for me was talking about the kind of punishment they receive in school. It ranged from being taken out of class, plucking grass and kneeling for long amounts of time. Cleaning the classroom was a huge part of their every day and not part of a punishment. The teacher carried on leading the session discussing lightly the issue of safeguarding. We went off to explore the school which I will tell you all about in another post.

Forum Theatre
The highlight of the day was forum theatre. Forum theatre is used in schools and communities widely in Sri Lanka it is used with heavy story lines to get across difficult issues to the community facing them. The play runs through once and then the audience have the chance to stop the scene replace a character and try and change the outcome of the story. I really loved this method and the theatre team were amazing. I was so surprised to see so many of the young people taking part and really finding good solutions to the problems. I have so much to tell you about forum theatre so please follow and keep up to date for more news.

In all it was a very educational experience and it made me realise that in the UK we take so much for granted.

Bojan (Bosnia), Sam (UK), Shefani (Sri Lanka) Tajdar (Pakistan) James (UK) part of our great team


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