Don’t underestimate the power of art as inspiration. This is something I learned when visiting several educational facilities in India. The head mistress of one government school of 255 students (grade 6-10) in Chennai said one of the best things to come out of World Vision partnership with the school is the bright murals that decorate the rooms and buildings. Seems such a simple thing (to me) but it’s come up time and time again from the teachers at the different educational facilities World Vision works in. The head mistress explained three ways the artwork makes a difference to their school:
1. It makes children feel part of the school.
They are proud of their school, it’s bright and lovely and has good facilities. This makes them feel part of it, and they are more likely to continue with their schooling.
2. It makes children curious.
They ask questions; artwork opens up conversations and learning.
3. It motivates the children.
For example, one school had the portraits of the various freedom fighters line the hallway walls. They are there, every day, as a presence singing out for justice, and kindness, and strength, and hope.
Below are some examples how artwork is used in different educational facilities for inspiration and learning.
Chennai High School
Images of freedom fighters line the walls.
Government Primary School in Chennai
Buildings highlight the importance of health.
Child Care Centre/Kindergarten in Rural India
I want to elaborate a little on this World Vision supported child care centre. One World Vision’s strengths as an organisation is their ability to work with the government for better outcomes. For example, the government has some great policies in place, however the application of these policies in rural areas tends to be the challenge due to lack of support. Projects that couple good government policies with long term support tend to have longevity and success, so World Vision work from the top (with government bodies) and on the ground (with the communities) to affect sustainable change. One such project is the government run child care centres (Anganwadis) for 3-5 year olds. They are set up to help parents in rural areas feed, monitor and care for their children. This helps combat the problem of malnutrition in the under 5’s in this region and enables parents to work. What tends to happen when these centres are set up, is they aren’t utilised by the community unless there is on the ground support. It’s about relationship. World Vision supports these centres by donating toys for the children to play with, painting the walls with bright, happy images, and providing ongoing staff support and training.
Brightly coloured walls make this a happy space for children. I chatted to the mothers here, and they expressed their gratefulness to be able to drop their children at the centres every day knowing they will be fed well, looked after and educated.
Art is powerful. I’ve always known this; however I have a new perspective on its ability to inspire. At the heart of it all, I guess it’s not really about the art; it’s about the messages of hope they hold.