How this Delhi-based organisation is helping children find their voice through art
‘I grew up with numbers and labels…
These numbers tell me where I stand,
How much I learn,
And, how much I know.
But these numbers feel like advertisements interrupting my favourite movie.’
The above lines were delivered by Supriya Kumari, a student of Rashtriya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya in Delhi, at the Spoken Fest in Mumbai in 2019.
A shy and reclusive girl, she was never able to express her thoughts clearly. The mere thought of speaking in front of an audience used to give her nightmares. But, after undergoing training with Slam Out Loud for three years, the 15-year-old got the confidence to be able to write and recite her poem.
Art is known to be one of the most creative forms of communication and expression. It allows people to tell stories and spark conversations, be it on canvas or just a piece of paper. However, over the years, our education system has steadily discouraged young students and creative minds from taking up arts. Increasing emphasis on academics has sidelined arts and craft as a subject. This probably explains why India ranks a measly 99 among 139 countries in the Global Creativity Index, 2015.
In an attempt to change this scenario, Slam out Loud was started in Delhi by Jigyasa Labroo (27) and Gaurav Singh (30) in 2014. The not-for-profit organisation is using art to empower children to unleash their imagination.
The enterprise identifies children from disadvantaged backgrounds and trains them in various art forms like poetry, storytelling, and theatre, free of cost. Besides, it provides access to appropriate platforms where they can showcase their artistic side.
“Inculcating art forms as part of early childhood not only improves cognitive and decision-making skills, but also helps develop a healthy and happy state of mind. We recognised this need and incorporated 108 hours of art-based learning in our programmes every year as against the 20 hours that schools generally call for,” Jigyasa tells YourStory.
Since its inception, Slam Out Loud has reached out to over 50,000 children across Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan. This, in turn, has led to the creation of 15,000 original art pieces and performances delivered to an audience of 35,000 cumulatively.
Sowing the seeds of creativity
Jigyasa and Gaurav, alumni of Teach for India, were teaching Class VI students at the Government Girls Senior Secondary School in Tughlakabad, Delhi. During the course of their pedagogy, they realised that many students did not get opportunities to explore their creative side. Their education was limited to academics and securing an employment. Hence, the duo decided to start conducting sessions on sketching, poetry, theatre, and other art forms.
“What began as an attempt to teach at the school, went on to become an initiative in itself. Gradually, we began extending our efforts and conceptualised Slam Out Loud in 2014,” Jigyasa recollects.
Presently, the organisation has seven full-time employees and a pool of over 100 artists.
A combination of training and e-learning
Slam Out Loud trains children from low income communities in various art forms like poetry, storytelling, theatre, visual arts, and photography. The organisation achieves this through two of its flagship programmes.
As part of the ‘Jijivisha Fellowship’, the organisation has tied up with government schools, learning centres, and shelter homes to identify and train students in the age group of 10 to 17 years. Artistes from different backgrounds sign up for the programme to enlighten the students with artistic concepts and skills. Each artiste teaches a group of about 30 students per year. However, the entire programme is a five-year intervention with a relay model through which students undergo 108 hours of arts-based learning in a year.
Till now, many well-known artistes have been associated with the Jijivisha Fellowship including storyteller Anupa Lal, celebrated lyricist Deepak Ramola, distinguished poet Kyle Louw, and talented singer Ankur Tewari.
“Since professional artistes are roped in as part of the fellowship, children get an opportunity to learn from the best. And, through the course of the intervention, their ability to observe, interpret, express, and create pieces of art blossoms. Besides, we at Slam Out Loud train all these artistes for 60 hours a year in various tools of pedagogy and behavioural science to enable them to teach effectively,” Jigyasa notes.
Slam Out Loud’s ‘Voice for All’ programme includes a tech-based e-curriculum that students can access from anywhere and at any time. All the courses part of this are interactive and accessible in regional languages. The organisation has partnered with Pratham Education Foundation to implement and spread awareness about the programme. In addition to this, it also hosts art mela and exhibitions to provide an opportunity for children to showcase their art after completing the course.
Bringing out the creative side
Nandini Gautham has been a fellow of the Jijivisha programme for over a year now. She teaches poetry to 18 children belonging to a school set up by the Setu Foundation in Delhi by holding two sessions a week.
“Through all the art-based learning modules I have covered, children have shown a lot of enthusiasm, creativity, and out of the box thinking. They have discovered new abilities and expanded their horizons. This, I believe, is an essential component of early childhood education,” she says.
The organisation’s work over the last five years is also very noticeable. According to a survey conducted by Slam Out Loud, almost all the students feel they are contributing to social change, and about 95 percent of the students feel they have learnt new skills, concepts, and ideas through these programmes.
After providing artistic opportunities and art-based learning to individuals, the organisation is aiming to integrate art education not only as an extra-curricular subject, but as a co-curricular activity across all the schools in India in the next few years.
Having received funds in the form of donations to the tune of Rs 80 lakh from companies like Brookfield Asset Management, Pratham Education Foundation, N/Core, InnovatEd as well as a few crowdsourcing platforms. Slam Out Loud is presently looking to expand its reach by partnering with organisations that have a similar ideology as itself.