The Right to Education – our second day of workshops
Today at 8am Tony and I rocked up to the workshop venue and found that the team had everything ready. The banners were already up, most of the children had already arrived (I think they are mostly from one school in particular which is in the local area of the arts centre, so they can all be collected on the way to the workshp venue), and the instruments were out and unpacked.
Yesterday we focused on the idea that from the moment a person is born they have the same human rights as every other person. We made a piece of music that started from the idea of the first breath. Today, the plan was to complete that piece of music with the children, and then move onto another right – the Right to Education (our focus topics were chosen in response to our initial discussions with the children about what they knew about human rights).
So first to Moris, the piece of music we’d created with blown bamboo pieces, chime bars, guitar, djembe and singing. We had all the material created, but this morning we needed to put the structure together and ensure everyone knew what to do.
We divided the children into two groups, both including bamboo blowers and chime bars. Group 1 had the notes related to C major, and we rehearsed them so that they repeated their patterns 4 times. Group 2 had the notes related to D, and they also practised repeating four times in a row. We put the two groups together and they tag-teamed in and out. One of the Afalyca team is a great guitarist, so we got him to start the piece with a guitar solo of the song melody. From this we launched into the instrumental music, and from that into the song. At the end of the song we go back into the instrumental music and gradually get quieter to finish.
It’s so important in these initial workshops for the children to see how all these ideas can get put together into a piece. I know that for many of them, there were no apparent links between all the different things they were being asked to do. By the end of the first day we had the instrumental music finished, but only the words to the song, not the melody. Putting it all together today was for some of them the first tangible example they had of how this group-composing process could work, and what the results were like.
From this important experience of understanding and success, we went on to consider a how to depict the Right To Education. Again we started with a discussion – “Why is education important?” The children suggested things like, “Because you can learn languages/you can learn to do maths”. But why is that important? we asked. We divided them into groups and asked each group to write one sentence in answer to the question, “Why is education important?” Tony reminded them that education and learning can also happen outside of school, and lots of them seized upon this idea with enthusiasm. It was a good process, and the outcomes were interesting… after a time we started to approach concepts rather than purely concrete things. They suggested the importance of things like providing an inspiration and motivation for others, sharing the fruits of your knowledge with others, developing your talent by extending your technique and skills, and even learning religious doctrine in order to find salvation!
From this process we developed 5 or 6 sentences. We then established a pulse to see what potential rhythms were suggested by the words. The rhythms started to fall into melodies (as they are wont to do) and Tony started up a guitar accompaniment, which gave all of us a huge lift of energy, and suddenly we found we had another song.
During one of the breaks, a drumming improvisation had broken out. We now decided to build on those skills and ideas, and created a song structure that had sung verses interspersed with percussion and playing. We devised a call-and-response introduction (one of Tony’s ‘signature’ strategies, and always very effective), and had all the kids playing instruments – either bamboo sticks played as claves, or djembes. We sang the song through several times, giving everyone the chance to make sense of the structure.
We all felt very satisfied at the end of this day. We’d achieved a lot with the children, but also with each other. It felt today like we’d been a very strong workshop team. It enabled us to laugh together about an out-of-the-blue request from the UN that somewhere in the middle of our Right To Play concert on Sunday, we include a quiz about Human Rights where we give away t-shirts to the people with the right answers. Why can’t we just give the t-shirts to the children to wear? I asked Marqy? That would just as effective a public education strategy, and they would look great. This wasn’t in our proposal! We’re still undecided as to how we are going to approach this request.