How Salaam Bombay Foundation is curbing the digital divide through performing arts

Salaam Bombay Foundation organised an online fundraiser to highlight how arts play a crucial role in the comprehensive growth of underprivileged children.
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According to the World Economic Forum, about 320 million learners in India are adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and have transitioned to e-learning.

However, online classes were not affordable for all. At times, students found it difficult to cope with the new mode of learning because of problems peculiar to resource-challenged homes, besides the interrupted power supply, weak or non-existent internet connectivity, and unaffordability to buy necessary devices and internet data packages.

Pandemic led to a digital divide among students. Not all could afford online classes

Arts and studies

The challenges of the 21st century require new ways of thinking, making it crucial for educators to look beyond traditional knowledge sources. And education in the performing arts has emerged as an alternative. 

Studies show children exposed to all three performing arts (music, theatre, dance) are happier, more engaged and enjoy going to school. 

They discover themselves and grow in confidence, enjoy an increased happiness quotient, experience reduced stress levels, positively channelise their energies, and are socially better adjusted — all of which contributes to their future success.

Realising the importance of arts as a tool of development for students, Mumbai-based Salaam Bombay Foundation (SBF) incorporated performing and visual arts as a part of the syllabus for underprivileged students attending government schools since 2007. 

The foundation soon started dance, music, theatre academy, and creative arts (painting, drawing) in an effort to bind both resource-challenged students and privileged ones together.

Talking about the importance of arts, Rajashree Kadam, VP – Projects (Arts and Media), Salaam Bombay Foundation, said, “Through studying the performing arts, students gain the opportunity to engage in an individual and collaborative expression of who they are and potentially can be.”

Lighting up lives

A lot of privileged children — who have a flair for art and understand how it has contributed to their holistic development — are coming forward to help their peers.

One such young changemaker is 17-year-old Tia Advani. A student from B.D Somani International School, Tia is passionate about helping resource-challenged communities in India. An avid theatre enthusiast, she believes theatre is a platform that spreads joy and laughter. 

Tia Advani

Tia reached out to Salaam Bombay, wanting to do a fundraising project for the theatre academy. The foundation decided to write a play and came up with a concept that Tia loved.

She, thus, initiated a fundraiser — ‘Raushni – Lighting Up Lives’ — in collaboration with the Salaam Bombay Theatre Academy. 

Through her stage production “Bridge The Gap”, she hopes to raise funds to provide data packs and technological devices to SBF students to make online learning possible for them amidst the pandemic.

The play is based on the pandemic and its associated challenges. It is a window into the world of underprivileged students, who, with fortitude and determination, have overcome challenges and found their way out of the dark.

“The recent pandemic has taken a toll on all of us, however, some more than others. To me, Bridge The Gap means equal opportunities. And, while I understand this may not be an easy or quick task to achieve, I believe we all should do our part to make sure we are moving towards ‘bridging the gap’,” says Tia.  

A shot from the play

The 38-minute play was streamed live on YouTube on August 8. The cause also received contributions after the video was released through SBF’s fundraising initiative on the GiveIndia platform.

According to the SBF, the initiative raised a total of over Rs 3,50,000 in funds, which will be used to help students reconnect with their schools. It will also be utilised for in-house projects, short films, etc., and also to pay external trainers. 

Edited by Suman Singh

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