When children from poor schools dramatize their lived experiences, they are not only entertaining us.

The HIV/Aids Day and 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Arts programme at  Levana Primary School.

The format of Levana Primary School's HIV/Aids Day celebrations was typical of school-themed festivals. There were drama skits, poetry reading, singing and dancing by the children. Because we also celebrate the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, the school made this campaign part of their festival.

The impact of  Levana's show was the delivery of the  social message that was driven home by these young, unschooled actors. When these children dramatize their lived experiences, they blur the lines between fact and fiction. They are inadvertently sharing something far deeper with us.

Principal, Andre Lamprecht and teachers at the programme.

There is no doubt that the children absorb the traumas of their neighbourhood. The children effortlessly slipped into their roles as violent, domestic abusers, gangsters and aimless, drug-dependent  dropouts who recruit and seduce boys and girls. They spat out their angry words almost from memory. I was gobsmacked.

Thankfully, the children directed the same intensity when they repeatedly sold their story of hope and healing through acting. They sounded as convincing when they sketched pictures of fulfilled dreams and success for those who fought back and stayed focused.

The entertainment factor of the performances was high and the message of the building strong, healthy communities was underscored. Yet, it is the deeper narrative of the psychological scarring in violent neighborhoods that we should heed.  That was the unintended, powerful message that the children conveyed through their acting. These children sit in our classrooms.  If we do not help them deal with these deep traumas  sensitively and creatively, we are doing them an injustice.


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