Children, especially those between the ages of 7 to 16 (approx.) go through many transitions. To promote adjustment and growth they require the ability to create freely and explore their curiosity. This is best fostered in an atmosphere of experiential learning.
Children who are part of Music Basti programmes are often labeled as ‘children-at-risk.’ For Music Basti, the ‘at-risk’ factor implies that the children have demanding and challenging experiences of life on the street, often abandoned by their families and without protective elements of any kind. They live in poverty, and inhabit a physically, mentally and socially unsafe environment.
Children-at-risk, particularly those who live and work on the streets face a series of problems that are interconnected. These include a physically unsafe environment to live in, being illiterate or drop outs, exposure to crime and sexual abuse, being orphans, runaways or abandoned by their families, living in detention centers, child labour, trafficking and being part of families where parents are incapable of caring for them adequately.
In addition to this, they have had limited exposure to arts, music and music education even in their current circumstances of rehabilitation and bridge education programmes that stress mostly on the basic necessities of literacy catering to a material and pragmatic aspiration of reintegration for street children. In such a context, Music Basti focuses not only on catering to this lack of music instruction and exposure to music but also argues for a change in approach to rehabilitation programmes so that the pragmatics of our aspirations take into account not just the dissemination of ‘basic skills’ but also creativity, critical thinking and an inquisitive spirit. Education should never be the promulgation of utilitarian tools, but a platform for children to be able to explore the world and its material in the mode that they feel comfortable in and excited by.
The Community Arts Approach
The Community Arts approach employed by Music Basti has been a conscious attempt to work with and enter into a dialogue with children through collaborative art based activities and projects. Through the activities, strong bonds are built with positive thinking adult artists — friends — whose several achievements in art and intellectual activities foster enthusiastic and motivating value beliefs in the children who pool resources together as equals. Through such a communal activity, which is a learning process for both the adult and child participant, a sense of shared community is created especially on occasions of joint participation in public showcases and performances. Creating this support system is often critical for the promotion of positive attitudes and beliefs among children, in the absence of a stable family atmosphere and family income, housing, healthcare, legal protection and nutrition. The importance of community support is where the relevance of Music Basti becomes apparent. Children’s development is the outcome of our community, its shared norms, practices and it is important that as our community progresses that it also become more inclusive of the multiple voices that constitute our shared spaces.
The Child Centric Approach
Given the importance of shared communal beliefs and equal spaces of action and performance, Music Basti’s model of activities are based on principles of equal participation and involvement of children at every level of planning, visualization and implementation. Curriculum is devised on the basis of children’s needs as they are envisaged and articulated by children themselves. In essence, Music Basti provides the opportunity and resources for children to devise their own pedagogic pattern and work through it in the way they feel is appropriate, comfortable and exciting.
Through the process of the programme it is hoped that the children will not just acquire new skills to express themselves musically but also learn to use their experiences and their natural environment as resources for critically examining and deciding how they want the future of their lives and of the world to proceed. Through such intellectual activity the programme hopes to produce confident people with a positive self-image and a belief in teamwork and harmony.
Content development and integration of values
Music is used to reinforce and help students learn mathematics skills such as counting and grouping, emerging literacy skills such as sound/symbol correspondence, and the writing process. Students are encouraged to model character traits such as cooperation, respect, responsibility, kindness, integrity, courage, perseverance, self-discipline, and good judgment through their participation in music.
Songs and other creative exercises are used to promote these messages, character traits and values. Song writing, performances and workshops involve the creativity and imagination of children to infuse meaning from their world into the music.
Music Basti’s program involves integration in the areas of English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, and other content areas both within and outside of the arts.
The music content focuses on developing rhythm, melody, pitch, music awareness and appreciation, through a combination of non- formal and formal teaching methods, message driven songs and activities. These are developed in a child centric manner, taking into account learning needs and desires of the children.