Students and teachers of 25 schools in Kolkata embark on a journey to explore the history of their schools.
SUBHA DAS MOLLICK finds out :
As Kolkata, a city on the eastern part of India, is feverishly gearing up for the polls and election campaigns have reached a shrill crescendo, a sizeable section of the city students with not yet the right to exercise their franchise, are engaging themselves into weaving magic. But of a different nature. Ignoramus of the politics of the polls, these students, aged between 10 to 16, are digging into the history of their schools and trying to unearth interesting facts buried deep under the piles of documents stashed away in some remote corner of their school godowns.
The young minds are pulling out dusty files from their school offices, scanning through old documents, letters, question papers, reading afresh the first issues of the school magazine to curate the best essays, stories and poems written by the erstwhile students, embarking on a treasure hunt in search of old bells, typewriter machines, magic lanterns, galvanometers, spectroscopes and wall clocks. And most importantly, they are planning to dig into memories – memories of teachers, alumni, administrators, the school gardener or the school tailor. They are all a part of the project called “The Magic of my School”. Towards the end of the year, during the comfort of the winters, these students will be putting up grand exhibitions of their findings and invite the citizens of Kolkata for a walk through.
The Magic of my School was launched on January 24, 2019 by Bichitra Pathshala in collaboration with Jadunath Bhavan Museum & Resource, both located in Kolkata. The launching programme was held at the Barun De Auditorium of Jadunath Bhavan. Noted writers and academicians like Jawhar Sircar, Soumitra Shrimani and C.P Ghoshal gave erudite talks on the importance of studying history and the history of education in Kolkata. There was also special mention of an archive set up in The Oriental Seminary school – one of the oldest schools in Kolkata. Interesting is both Nobel laureate poet, Rabindranath Tagore and Sir W.C Bonerjee, first president of the Indian National Congress, had been a student of this school.
Teachers from 25 schools of Kolkata attended the programme. They all agreed that through The Magic of my School, students’ interest in history will be rekindled which will help to instil in them a better sense of appreciation for their schools. In many cases the students will also be able to connect the history of their school to that of their city and the country. There can be found much more of history traced back in this manner than what is available in the pages of history books.
In fact, there is a good chronological mix of schools on board The Magic of my School. While some are as new as 10 years old, there are also the old ones which have over 150 years in existence now. One teacher came down all the way from Berhampore, about 200 kilometers from Kolkata to represent Krishnath College School. This school was established way back in the year 1853.
In the month of April this year, after the exams got over and students settled down with their new classes, Team Bichitra Pathshala visited the participating schools, doing workshops to initiate the students into the The Magic of my School project. There were discussions on history and discourses on why history is a compulsory subject in the school curriculum, the way historians interpret from the sources of information and create the grand narrative of history and also chance discoveries that make these carefully constructed narratives invalid and incomplete.
As part of the project, every probing has been designed with a thought provoking question which is supposed to spring in the mind of the seekers. The students wrote down on a colourful piece of paper one good question about their school. The common questions were:
“Who was the first Principal of our school?”
“Who were the first batch of students to pass out of our school?”
“Who designed the logo of our school?”
There were some out of the box questions like:
“In Jewish Girls School library why there is not a single book in Hebrew?”
“What was there on this plot before our school was built?”
One teacher who attended the workshop asked, “Why did the Birlas, an Indian business conglomerate, decide to establish an English medium school at Ranikuthi, a downmarket locality in the south of Kolkata?”
Having posed a question for themselves, the students and the teachers, in the process, charted out a path which would lead them to the answers to those questions.
At the workshops, among other things, the students were taught how to conduct a good interview. Good questions elicit good answers. They all wrote down five good questions they wish to ask their Principal. In the end the students were advised to maintain meticulous records of all their findings. If the goal is to showcase the uniqueness of one’s school through an exhibition, the journey to the goal is as important.
Finally, the journey of The Magic of my School will culminate in a grand exhibition at a heritage site in Kolkata. Collating components from the exhibitions of all the participating schools, there will be a final exhibition which will have various installations, displays, video projections and live storytelling sessions that will help trace the history of education in Kolkata .
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW
INTRODUCING INDIAN HERITAGE
INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage) has joined hands with Bichitra Pathshala. There will also be a publication to commemorate this unique experiment on history.
So, welcome aboard The Magic of my School and witness the students of Kolkata schools weave history of education through this interesting initiative..
PICTURE BY AUTHOR
SUBHA DAS MOLLICK is a teacher of Media and Film Studies and a documentary filmmaker. She switched her career from teaching Physics to teaching media in 1996 and was instrumental in setting up the nascent departments of Film Studies and Mass Communication & Videography at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, India. Today, as one of the founder members of Bichitra Pathshala, she is engaged in experimenting with the pedagogy of the moving image. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
INTRODUCING INDIAN HERITAGE has no relation to the contents of this article and solely featured by The Edition in the interest of caring and sharing Indian Heritage.