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  • Writer's pictureGayatri Pardeshi

Life is Your Stage

Updated: Oct 15, 2022

Parindey : Nima Parekh

Alivelihood: Theatre for Learning

Region: Gandhinagar, Gujrat

“I have a different kind of definition for ART; art means Act, Reflect and Transform!”

- Nima Parekh

Nima at the school assembly (Photo: Gayatri Pardeshi)

Nima is a school principal at Lavad Primary School in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. It is a government school that follows Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology known as Nai Taleem. There is no cleaning staff, clerk, janitor or watchman in the school. All the work required to run the school is the responsibility of the students, teachers and villagers. This practice generates a healthy relationship between the students and the staff members.

Nima’s journey inspires her to create a space for the arts in government schools. She uses theatre as a tool to keep the school environment open for new thoughts, opportunities and space for introspection. It is her response to the old patterns of our traditional education system and she is dedicated to creating a safe environment for the students to study. Her practice reflects her belief in the role of art in the education and mental health of school students.

Nima facilitates sessions for students as per their needs. For every 8th standard batch, Nima facilitates a session called ‘Bridging the Gap’ to prepare students for their upcoming life challenges. In the session, she explores: “How to respect the opposite gender? How to deal with bullying? What is the importance of the female body? What is sex education? What is menstrual hygiene? How to make sanitary pads? What is the importance of the male body? How are they different? How are they similar? How can they take responsibility of each other? And how to deal with attraction towards the opposite gender?” Nima works on these questions with the students to create a safe space to explore themselves. She believes that everyone is a learner and should always seek to learn more. She is constantly creating opportunities to innovate for students and teachers as well. For teachers, she invites different facilitators from various backgrounds to experiment with new tools for teaching.

Nima facilitating a theatre session (Photo: Gayatri Pardeshi)

In early 2004, against her inclination to study computer science, Nima studied for a government job as a teacher on her parents' wish. After studying, she got a job at Lavad Primary School as a teacher. It was challenging for her to do the job because of various reasons. The first one was a language barrier as the students spoke a dialect peculiar to that village. Other reasons included school commutes and the government system of schooling. Despite these, she didn’t give up as she believes in making decisions that are based on overall experiences. After working for a year at the school, her perspective on teaching changed completely. She created an amazing bond with the students and the students also welcomed her wholeheartedly. The love given by the students changed her mind and she decided to continue her job at the school.

During a theatre session at school (Photo: Gayatri Pardeshi)

Yet, despite the love Nima was receiving, she was not enjoying her work as a teacher because there was no correlation between the students' life and their curriculum. During that period, the government of Gujarat decided to involve the teachers in preparing the school curriculum. This helped her understand the education system and its process in depth. Even after making several changes in the curriculum, there was no visible effect on the students and Nima felt that there was still something lacking in the curriculum.

In 2008, her journey took a positive turn when she attended a workshop conducted by Swarup Rawal called 'Life Skills through Drama’ and it changed her entire perspective towards arts in students' education. "Working for students' mental health is not a part of teaching but it is a part of practising it," says Nima. Later, she came back to school and practised using theatre as a tool in the learning process and that's when she realised that she had found the missing piece of the puzzle. Theatre brings people together to help each other, participate in mutual development and foster teamwork. It gives the opportunity for them to witness the intermingling of class, creed, and gender and move beyond those divisions to let newer insights come through. For children, especially, this method improves their ability to grasp concepts owing to real-life examples and situations and hence, promotes a creative mindset. This gave Nima confidence in her own role as a teacher.

There was no turning back for her with this brand-new vision for teaching. She didn’t want to teach using the old style of teaching. She modified the method of teaching where a teacher teaches How to learn, How to reflect, How to plan and How to think. From that day, she became a learner and started to enjoy being a teacher.

In 2014, Nima decided to take a small break from her job for self-enquiry as a learner and joined Swaraj University in Udaipur. There she got exposed to homeschooling, unschooling and various alternative ways of education.

Nima interacting with the students during lunch time (Photo: Gayatri Pardeshi)

She decided to come back to her old job at Lavad Primary School and teach those students within the system. "I decided to return because the students in rural areas do not have access to alternate ways of learning and also, they do not have the option. The parents do not have time to give to their children, nor do they have much money to afford homeschooling," says Nima.

The school environment, students' love, their development, and bonding with the staff bring her closer to herself and motivate her to work further.

Nima faces challenges like working in the government school system, managing a large staff, creating a safe space for teachers to explore new opportunities in alternative learning processes and striking a work-life balance. Now, these challenges are becoming easy to overcome with the help of mentors, friends and dedication to the cause.

Gayatri with the Lavad School staff

Nima started her journey with uncertain intentions but now she is responsible for the positive impact on many students' lives and education. Nima never gave up as a learner. She also started playing Frisbee at the age of 30 and now she is a national frisbee player. Her exploration of frisbee opened doors for school students to learn a sport. Owing to her labour of love, the school students now enjoy the freedom to create in a safe environment, experience healthy teacher-student relationships and practise skill-based learning.

"Every child has the freedom to feel that the world is their own and they have to take care of it by taking its ownership. If this is added to their education we can easily connect to our roots and make the world a better place for the next generations. This will be a possibility of educating every child and using co-creation to work. This is my dream future that I envision for the world!" says Nima.

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