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Comic capers on paper with message
- Sixth graders of JH Tarapore School express problems freely with visual stories that appeal to all

Pencils and crayons can say a thousand words.

A wall comic workshop at JH Tarapore School in Jamshedpur proved the point as students freely expressed their personal problems like peer pressure, parental pressure, bullying as well as their general concerns about the environment and the society at large.

Conducted by People for Change, a city-based NGO, the daylong workshop on August 6 was basically a crash course on the art of cartoons and comic strips to tell stories.

It was also a part of the school’s Speak Up campaign.

Around 150 students from Class VI were asked to think about topics that has a message and express themselves on a storyboard — a series of events with cartoons, pictures with text in balloons and captions. The workshop taught every student how to make a wall poster comic from scratch. It also helped the children voice their innermost concerns, emotions and fears.

“Comics have been one of the most effective ways of communication in society that can be used by children to express their opinions on anything. It can be taught and developed as one of the strongest ways of effective communication. What makes these comics different from a professional creation is the ownership on the content as well as local settings and drama,” said Souvik Saha, the resource person and trainer.

Saha, who has received training with World Comics, Finland, was a banker who left his job to work with adolescents in schools and in rural areas.

Students, who shy away from drawing and sketching, were also able to etch cartoons, as they were taught basics of drawing faces and key elements of a storyboard. The children learnt storytelling through the use of cartoon characters by making strips on white sheets with black outlines and sketches.

These comic strips are easy to make and invite debates. The simplicity of the approach lies in the fact that a participant just requires a pencil, paper and a thought — something to speak about.

“My friends and I made a comic strip on young children breaking traffic rules and its implications,” grinned sixth grader Ankita Tiwary.

Her classmate Shruti Naredi added it was the best workshop ever. “We learnt to draw characters and convert an idea into a story. Then, the story turns into a comic strip,” the Class VI girl explained in all seriousness.

Officials of People for Change wish to conduct this workshop in government schools across the state so that all students can effectively use this medium as a tool for personal and social communication.

Similar workshops will be held in other schools as well. “We plan them in some 10 city schools,” Saha added.

They include Motilal Nehru Public School, Gulmohur High School, Jamshedpur Public School, Kerala Samajam Model School and Hill Top School. “It’s a fun way to accomplish a great deal,” Kerala Samajam Model School principal Nandini Shukla said.