Roles & Responsibilities
I have had good amount of exposure on social psychology within the 10 days I have spent at the camps. We had to make an extra effort to treat all kids with same and act to against unjust behavior at all times we were working with children. In an environment as such with egalitarian aspirations, avoiding any tendency to make concession against anyone was vitally important to keep peace and trust within the community. We had to pay attention to younger ones, not to get exposed to wrong and unfair behaviours and crammed in the crowd when entering the classrooms.
I have learnt a lot from the kids. Their behaviors, uncommon, yet so amiable has thought me a lot which I won’t be able to come across in other environments:
Teftish! they started to yell, as the workshop hour was over and kids were leaving the class. Without me implying anything, they have built their own control mechanism: Few of them would stand by the door and frisk those who are leaving to check if anyone is leaking any crayons out of the classroom.
There was a collective responsibility amongst children against misconduct. They would own the responsibility to warn and stop those who force themselves through the doors without waiting their turn, those who pilfer, vandalise or hurt others without waiting my permission.
Once we have identified those who regularly repeat these misbehaviors and given them, those individuals, to own the responsibility to stop others from doing bad, they have immediately own their new roles and not only this stopped them but also stopped others executing bad behaviors. We have seen how important for them to feel incumbent and eager take charge in an organisation.
We then started to assign tasks to students such as handing out clean sheets of paper, picking up finished ones, staying at the door regulating intakes, warning the misbehaved those who are more likely to demonstrate those actions. It was surprising how quickly they adapted to these roles and how effective way of coordinating children this became.
Getting Access to school tents:
It took a while for us to get access to the schools and take over the keys from momaste (teacher) who were away (on holiday!). After ensuring the access to keys, we started running workshops more regularly after 2 months of unschooling. Having heard the school is back in operating again, many, with huge enthusiasm rushed into the school tent. As one told the other, amounts grew in numbers. There was congestions where the little ones were struggling to get in. We have decided to take in children equally by age and gender.
It was the indication of how yearning they were just for any social activity, not only education. Few older ones, came up to us and started to talked about what they learnt since last time they attended a class and questioned us about what we will be teaching them next.
We have been known as the momesta from then and on, and being stopped and questioned about the timetable, classes, when they should be coming to class the next day and what we will be teaching them whenever we have been seen on site. It was encouraging to see many male students were enthusiastic about art classes as their female peers.
We had the chance to conduct a first hand observation of ideas exposed on paper, drawn by young residents of Sehit Gelhat camp since the war has begun. Their oppressed national identity, experiences of the Syrian war and siege of Kobane was an antecedent and emerging theme.
We decided not to give them any themes or intervene with their drawings and keep it flowing. Non-Intervention was important at this point as it helped them to take it all out. We could see the changes in their pictures gradually becoming more colourful, more brave, more open.
Once we tried to ask them to draw what they want to become when they grow up. The results weren’t surprising. Many drew themselves as freedom fighters holding guns and flags, killing IS militants. We have realised probably it wasn’t the best direction, as this could rather be done after preliminary easing drawing activities.
We slowly improved our workshops progressively in light of our learnings. Children grew impatient, when we were moving from one side of the class to the other handing out new sheets of paper. Next we laid the blank papers and equal amount of crayons ahead of letting them in the classroom, which solved the issue.
Other problem we have encountered was the crayons in certain colours had higher demand than others. Yellow, green and red was almost gone within seconds. We had to make sure that they need to share the crayons with ones they need in exchange with ones they have.
Particularly children aged between 8-12, were tended towards to more nationalist and militaristic imagery. Boys were more tended towards to tanks, flags, IS militants and male YPG soldiers whereas female students were drawing female JPG soldiers and flags as well as in naturalistic settings such as on top of a mountain.
The more workshops we conducted with same group of participants, more these images became peaceful, with figurative and decorative elements. It felt to us that they have decontaminated themselves from the burdens of what they have been going through or their part of responsibility to reflect it as little artists.
In each workshops, their images also became more experimental such as, they started to use different colours and icons. It was a very common behavior that their first or first few images would be of their national flag with three main colours. For their second and third session, these kids would later use different colours and try to imitate their friends drawings.
As we moved on with further workshops, these images of flags, tanks, soldiers are replaced with homes, countrysides, rivers, trees and flowers, memories of their past lives before the war. Collecting their drawings and putting them up on the walls simultaneously, gave children the motivation to create more.