Monday, September 04, 2006

"Kalvettu" film is helping drop-out children return to school

"Kalvettu" - a six minute short film researched, scripted and performed by our Eastside Story children team in Krishnagiri is changing lives of children. Please read the article below by Ms. Sumitra Thangavelu, a Chennai based writer.

Click here to view the film

Click here to view the photo gallery of the screenings

Duraiyeri village, Krishnagiri district: Till a year ago, Saraswathi, aged 13, was caught in the routine of household chores. She would wakeup early and help her mother wash utensils, sweep and clean the house, fetch water, and cook. She is in school today simply because her mother, Kanamma, watched a film called Kalvettu.

Kalvettu is the true story of Prithviraj, a boy who was severely abused by his alcoholic father. His father used to tie both his hands with a rope and drop him inside a well - a method to blackmail his wife for some money. Prithviraj's mother always gave in, just to save her child.

"When I saw the film, I was deeply touched. That boy had to give up his studies because of his father. I realized that my daughter needed an education to face the world boldly. I enrolled her in school,'' says Kanamma, sitting outside her home in the picturesque Duraiyeri village in Krishnagiri's Thali Block.

Saraswathi dreaded going to school as her teacher often scolded her for not doing too well in studies. She was a slow learner but without a supportive learning environment, was unable to make an effort to do better. She cried often and soon, her mother decided to keep her at home.

She would probably have been married off sooner than later if her mother had decided against sending her to school. Today, Saraswathi is learning to read and write at the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) school in her village. NCLP in Krishnagiri is being implemented by the state government, UNICEF and other NGOs to enroll child labourers and out-of-school children in schools.

Krishnagiri is among the 16 districts in India where UNICEF is implementing integrated village planning projects to establish various child-friendly initiatives. Kalvettu was screened in select villages in the district to gauge people's reactions to problems facing women and children, and to draw awareness to the problems that exist in societies.

Kalvettu was also among the films screened during the launch of Eastside Story, an initiative by social organization NalandaWay and UNICEF to educate children in all aspects of film-making. It is a network of news bureaus that aims to give children aged 12 to 18 years the skills to make films, write news articles and do radio shows so they can bring in their perspective to an issue. Kalvettu was made by children themselves.

Thanks to the efforts, Saraswathi today is gaining an education. Standing against a wall of her home, she nods earnestly when asked if she wants to study more. Being shy by nature, it's difficult to make her talk but she smiles when asked if she likes school. What she does manage to say is a "yes'' when asked if her teachers are nice to her.

Saraswathi may be a slow learner, but with supportive people around herein school, she now has an opportunity to study and gain in knowledge and confidence. She is testimony to the power of sustained efforts to create awareness about child rights in villages.

- Sumitra Thangavelu