15-yr-old Sarika walks us through her Changemaker journey
ICO: Hi Sarika, thanks for joining us. We are glad to have you speak about your experience in detail.
Sarika: My pleasure. I’m so excited to be here and share my changemaker experience with everyone.
What was your main motivation behind taking part in ICO?
In our school, bullying is a serious concern. Students even tend to miss classes because of it. They were low on self confidence and it was affecting every sphere of their life. I always wanted to do something about it. When I heard of ICO, I thought of it as a platform to express myself and help my classmates and school to carve out bullying.
That’s great to know. So, how did you go about it?
First, I approached my friends with the idea and told them about how it will be a great thing if we can actually solve it. Most of my friends also found it interesting and we joined as a team. We didn’t exactly know what we would do at that time, but because we were excited, we all joined together. Initially, we were a team of 5 members but later we were joined by some of the teachers as well.
Wow. Good to see teachers also joining your team. So how did you implement your initiative?
First, we organized a skit in the school assembly to make everyone aware about the issue through which we depicted how traumatic it can be for a student to undergo bullying, and this was really powerful as everyone understood the depth of the issue.
Second, we realised that we would also need to counsel students who actively bully others. For this, we asked all the class teachers to help us identify those students who were bullying others in their classes. We gave them a sheet in a particular format to note the names of such students and the incidents they were involved in. The teachers used it extensively for over a month and handed us their respective lists.
Once we had the list, we got these students into a room and held personalised counselling sessions for them. We made them realise the harmful effects of bullying and the fact that they shouldn’t be doing it.
So what was the result of it?
We were able to counsel around 50 students and help them change their attitude towards other vulnerable students. There are still some of the students who don’t follow the rules even now but we have brought the bullying incidents down to 40% of what it was before and we are striving to further bring down these numbers to zero.
That’s commendable! Really good job. What were the challenges faced by you while working on the initiative?
Along with everything we did, we wanted to create a culture of openly speaking about the issue in school, however we realised that many students who were getting bullied were scared of talking about it. It was a big challenge for us, but to solve it, we put up a lot of posters encouraging students to openly speak up. We gradually started seeing some change, and after the first few students opened up, a lot more joined in.
And what was the best part of your initiative?
The best part of this initiative was that it helped me understand people better. For example, we often treat bully as someone who is bad at heart and just want to harm others. But while working on this initiative I learned that it’s their situation that force them to take such a harsh step. If we try to be empathetic toward them maybe then we will be more successful in changing their behaviour.
That is really mature of you. So just last couple of questions for you, what was the one thing different in this ICO initiative that from any other school project?
It was altogether a different experience because we got 100% freedom to implement the idea. We formed our own teams and everyone was passionate, so there was a natural coordination amongst the team members. In a typical school project teams are usually according to the roll numbers but this time around we got the freedom to choose our team and that really helped.
Very nice. What according to you is the role that adults have to play in helping children become Changemakers?
Encouragement! I think adults should encourage us to take charge and solve problems around us. Rather than only telling us to focus on academics, they should encourage us to take part in Changemaking experiences like these, as we develop an entirely new set of skills and mindset through such activities, that are not part of regular curriculum.
Well this has been very insightful. Thank you so much for sharing everything. I’m sure the readers enjoyed it.