When “Ameen Tokka” (the puppet) came on stage to inform the audience of first graders that the show’s first skit would be about cleanliness, a boy groaned “No!”
The Pakistan National Council for the Arts (PNCA) puts on a puppet show every Monday aimed at educating young children on a variety of issues including health, education and the environment. Although the puppets were beautifully painted and dressed, the skit itself fell flat.
The script approached uncleanliness by a grandfather puppet suggesting to his young grandchildren and a scruffy young urchin that keeping dogs as pets can lead to deadly diseases, an unrealistic and unfair assumption. This may have been more informatively presented through a stronger argument and by giving children tips on enforcing stronger personal hygiene.
The next generation is more informed and aware than those gone before – had the play catered to that, it may, in the words of a schoolteacher present on the occasion “have compelled them to think”.
The skit was followed by puppets dancing to the song ‘Barbie Girl’ and ‘Old McDonald Had A Farm’ with each animal hopping onto the stage. The audience seemed to enjoy the song-and-dance portion of the programme more, clapping and squealing to the beat.
When The Express Tribune asked the assimilated little boys what they liked best about the show, one yelled out “Guriya!” (doll). Boys will be boys.
The puppet show proved an excellent initiative where children can enjoy the show every week free of of cost. That said organisers should tweak scripts to effectively create awareness while also entertaining the young crowd. Less talking at the audience and greater emphasis on collaborative discussions will ensure children are still talking about the issues long after the show is over.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 10th, 2012.