My keen interest in the performing arts, as a tool for social development in The Gambia, has motivated me to pursue training in the arts. Since 2011, I have received intensive training in acting, speech and voice production, singing, stage management and scriptwriting. I have discovered that the arts are a much more effective means of communicating with people, especially when working with children and youths.
The Ebunjan Performing Arts Association, a non-governmental organisation, promotes the use of theatre for social development through their theatre troupe. As an active member of the troupe, I have participated in plays that center women’s rights, early marriage, and politically expedient inter-tribal friction (often rooted in economic disenfranchisement) that hinders personal relationships as well as political integration. I have also used theatre to educate the public about cancer awareness and treatment, racism, and other social and environmental issues. The goal is to broaden their knowledge and information base. For example, we produced a play about an African American family aspiring to move beyond segregation and redlining in 1950s Chicago.
I want to meet with and learn from leaders in the arts around the world, and more importantly, I want to use what I learn to positively impact the lives of many Gambians. I believe that literacy programs and performing arts education can play an essential role in The Gambia’s national development.
We provide opportunities for students to develop creative passions but we also teach communication, language and leadership in ways that inspire critical thinking, self-reflection and self-esteem.
In 2018, I founded a nonprofit organisation called Kaddijatou Centre Of Excellence. It is a literacy and performing arts mentorship program that focuses on coaching and training children under fifteen. The idea is to instruct and sensitize through performing arts education: poetry, drama, creative writing, public speaking, music, and dance. We provide opportunities for students to develop creative passions but we also teach communication, language and leadership in ways that inspire critical thinking, self-reflection and self-esteem. We meet with groups of up to 30 students to oversee reading sessions every Saturday. We share valuable life experiences with youths aged 7 to 15 to promote collaborative work and improve social skills. We direct and produce short plays as a means of social advocacy. We provide tutoring and after-school assistance to students who require additional help. We try to instill a love of reading through one-on-one reading sessions. Finally, we support aspiring young performers by organising workshops that teach singing, acting, and the writing and performance of poetry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected me greatly and most especially the children I help through these mentorship programs. I cannot hold onsite sessions due to the lack of resources needed to abide by COVID-19 protocols. I never considered conducting online sessions because most of the kids I work with are from vulnerable, marginalised backgrounds and couldn’t possibly afford a computer or laptop to learn online. Our Saturday reading sessions had been immensely helpful to our students. During the pandemic, students have been having difficulties with their reading self-confidence and a lot of the progress they made has been derailed.
A few of the kids have contacted me, expressing their feelings about the program. A girl name Aisha told me how she misses our reading sessions. She doesn’t get a lot of support at home as her parents are busy with work and lack the education to help her with schoolwork. It is a challenging and emotional time for everyone, but it has been especially hard for these kids. The coronavirus has taken away some of their biggest allies and confidants.
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