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Look and learn from Aamir

- Questions over choice of Hindi film in awareness drive

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 3: Aamir Khan’s message for schools and teachers will reach primary schoolteachers across the state.

But the school and mass education department’s decision to screen Taare Zameen Par to make schoolteachers aware about the needs of children with learning disabilities has evoked mixed reaction from various quarters.

While most people lauded the decision to take the help of visual aid to sensitise the teachers, which is the first of its kind, some felt that an Odia film based on the present education system would have been a better choice.

The film, Taare Zameen Par, will be screened by the Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority (Opepa) at 3,899 centres across the state. It will be shown to 1,69,203 teachers, including headmasters, untrained teachers and trained sikshya sahayaks.

“It is a part of our inclusive education programme under the Sarva Sikshya Abhiyan. Taare Zameen Par will be an audiovisual tool of our training programme, which will cater to the requirements of children with special needs. The teachers will be asked to fill up a questionnaire. The feedback will be documented and further decisions will be taken based on the suggestions given,” said a senior Opepa official.

Though the idea of screening the Aamir Khan-starrer based on the life of a dyslexic child has attracted appreciation from many quarters, suggestions also poured in to screen an Odia film on a similar theme with which the Odisha teachers will be able to relate to better.

Some suggested the national award winning Aw Aakaare Aa, which calls for reforms needed in the present education system, to be screened along with it.

When The Telegraph spoke to the director of the film, Subas Das, about this, he said: “It is an Odia film questioning the unsympathetic and unfriendly behaviour of parents and teachers towards children. It also questions those who prepare the syllabi without knowing the children’s psychology. I appreciate the government policy of screening films to spread awareness. But, Aw Aakaare Aa could also be screened along with Taare Zameen Par.”

Children rights activist Sruti Mahapatra defends the decision. “Equal attention is not being paid to children with learning disabilities. The department’s decision to screen the film is a positive step, which will create awareness among teachers about the psychology of such students. Teachers will learn to explore the potential of such children. Moreover, there was no Odia film based on the needs of the differently-abled children. We must not overlook the bigger picture to bring them to the mainstream,” said Mahapatra, who was part of the selection committee for Taare Zameen Par.

Former principal of BJB Junior College S.N. Mohanty said that though Taare Zameen Par was a wonderful film that revolved around a child with learning disabilities, its screening would bring in very little visible change in the actual scenario.

“The teachers need proper orientation programmes in Odia language. But, if there is an Odia film available which focuses on the whole education system, why not screen that too, along with Taare Zameen Par,” asked Mohanty.

An Opepa official said: “We are open to all kinds of suggestions. This the first time that we will use films as a medium to create awareness among teachers. In future, we will try to screen Odia films depending on themes.”