When Art speaks louder than words

Upama Tamla (Rai)

December 10, 2020. It was a colder winter morning in Gundi, Chitwan. Our art team was already at Hattisunde Basic School, a local school providing education up to class 5.  We had the objective to paint 2 class rooms (ECD and class 1) and toilets which ECCA had previously constructed with the support from BMZ and action medeor e.V. Despite the soul-freezing cold breeze in the early morning, we started painting the portions we had left the day before.

 “A, B, C, D, E, F, G…..”

A loud voice suddenly startled me, who was focused deeply in painting the right shade of green for the grass below the alphabet train. I looked above my shoulder and saw a child reciting the alphabets of the wall on the top of his voice. I looked at my watch and it was already 10 a.m. The child’s continued sharp and loud recitation made me smile and I asked him if he knew numbers from 1 to 100 too. He stopped his recitation and his excited pair of eyes turned to me and at once were clouded with shyness. He shook his head with a no and ran away as fast as he could. I then chuckled with myself and continued painting the grass.

It was not long before other students came in and began pointing out at the pictures we were making, curiously making their own speculations. Their “ooo”s and “wow”s were a boost for our painting. But most of all, it was their buzzing discussion on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and school environment content of the walls that made us share eye contacts with a feeling that our work had ignited those issues in them. Some students sat to watch for an hour even after the school hours were over.  Shy conversations with them now and then brought a sense of warmth in the cold afternoon. After few hours, we walked back from the school discussing as usual about the happenings from the afternoon and the next day’s work.

The whole painting program in fact aimed to enhance the learning approach among the village children. Children often have difficulty in regularly attending school due to household chores, climatic causes (increased waterflow in rivers, landslides, etc.). So, for the time they are in the school premises, the paintings will impart knowledge to them even outside the class hours. So, with every stroke of painting, we hoped the paintings will motivate children to come to school as well. Within the next few days, the plain walls of the classrooms and toilets were soon vibrant with messages related to class curriculum, WASH and school environment. Seeing the small students watch the finished walls with awe on the final day was one of the memorable moments as we prepared to return back home. The boy who recited the alphabets earlier came to bid us goodbye along with his friends. Overall, the journey was worthwhile; an opportunity for sharpening content development and art skills, and most of all, a mixture of new learning and self-reflection in a world so different than mine.

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