Every child has the ability to transform the world for the better with his/her active participation. And fostering a sense of identity, participation and belonging to the world in children is a huge responsibility.
Realizing the importance, Chelapila Santakar, a journalist from Koraput, Odisha has been building the art of self-expression and participation in children since 1993. He encourages kids to communicate their feelings on any topic without any hesitation. And that attracts a positive environment for growth.
“The wordings of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo, ‘No child of mine can be a zero’ and the declaration of UNCRC regarding the rights and abilities in children has always been the guiding force in my life. This inspired me to be a child amidst thousands of children even at an age of 55 years.”
His career began as a school teacher. The year was 1993 when a young and agile Santakar started a school at his native place in Koraput, Odisha. The job of a teacher made him closer to the children, thus, realizing their challenges and possibilities. A majority of the students in the rural Koraput are first-generation schoolgoers, poor knowledge, lack of confidence and hesitation in self-expression were reducing children’s participation in classroom interactions.
This prompted Santakar to provide a scope for tribal school children to express their creative world through the handwritten weekly magazine ‘Ankurodgam’. He made photocopies of those magazines and used to distribute them in school free of cost with an ambition to make children the assets of the present world and not merely the citizens of tomorrow.
“Proper understanding and self-expression are the basic principles of Journalism which could excel children to speak their mind on subjects that directly or indirectly affect them. ‘Sishu Sambadikta’, or child reporters, was the key to develop comprehensive expression on any issue that we started in 2005 with the support of the Koraput Farmer’s Association in collaboration with UNICEF.”
Santakar quit his school after apprehending his greater opportunity and responsibilities toward the children of Koraput. Though it was not an easy task but the optimistic change aided in the formation of a People’s Group for Children’s Development (PGCD) that constitutes residents and teachers of Koraput. The members of PGCD open up to provide a child-friendly environment and equate the children’s perspectives and interests.
As part of the programme, they inducted the tools of journalism within kids such as utilization of five senses, questioning habits, reading & writing ability and presenting their acquired knowledge inside and beyond the classroom border. Santakar along with the child friendly members of PGCD also encouraged kids to ask questions as these questions provide scope to learn and understand the world.
Their efforts over the years paid off when the children of Koraput shared their emotional experiences and thoughts while actively participating in the National and International Children’s Summits held in Beijing. The spark that ignited in Koraput became a ray of hope in many states across the country. It was a milestone for Santakar which led to much support and appreciation from the state government, NGOs and several schools from within and outside the state. In fact, the department of School and Mass Media and SSD in Odisha also gave space to the ‘Sishu Sambadikta’ initiative in the school curriculums. Kudos to the consistent effort and love of Santakar and to the members of PGCD!
A school plays a vital role in shaping the future of a child and so do the teachers. In a time when people are easily manipulated by others, Santakar is working hard to reach out to more children in remote areas and expose them to their inherent abilities through ‘Sishu Sambadikta’. He strives for a world best suited for children where the adults should listen to the voice of children and strengthen their capacity to self-express.