Music, drama and dance for young artistes

Itah Hozaife is a Theatre Arts graduate of the University of Jos and the founder of Ink Marks.  This is a social enterprise established to develop children in different aspects of the art.  The children range from 9 to 18years and the concept is to teach them how to write plays, prose, songs; also how to direct, how to write scripts and develop their own innate talents through exposure to the rudiments of the art.  She had a chat with Edozie Udeze on these and more

So what is the whole essence of Ink Marks and Reel kids?

Since 2009, we discovered that there had been mass failures among the kids in the area of English Language and that innate ability to develop their God-given talents. We therefore felt that we could do our best to turn the situation around for good. We thought also we would be one of those to resolve that and show the kids the way forward in terms of how to speak and learn English to help them be the best in their chosen profession.

Now, we have two projects coming up this August. It is to coincide with the long holidays. One is called REEL kids. This has to do with teaching children English Language and Literature in English, using music, drama and dance. We did this last year and so this is the second time. Last year’s was encouraging.

What we do after we’ve taught them the English Language is to give them the task of creating their own songs. In this wise, we use musical or home video films to demonstrate and see if they’ve learnt what we’ve taught them. This is so because kids have to be allowed to be who they are.

What’s the age range for this…?

This is open to kids between 8 to 16years. And we have fifteen days to do this and then allow them to practice on their own. This year we are lucky we got a lot of support from Diamond Bank and others. The second part of it will also come up towards the end of August. In it, we will host the first winner of Idols dance competition. He will also come around to help the kids write their music and develop their dance patterns more. Also part of the show is what I have tagged I have a speech. This is the first time we’ll be doing that. And it entails the inspiration of Martin Luther King. What we do here is to allow the kids to write a speech to see how they can handle that aspect of the art. The challenge will be there too.

That’s the question they have to answer: What makes for a good leadership? The core essence of the speech is to talk about this leadership issue as it concerns us here in Nigeria mainly. So, the young ones have to write the speech answering that question of who qualifies to be a good leader and so on.

The theme here is really centred on leadership. If they have to write this speech, they have to understand leadership, true leadership that will help to make a better tomorrow.

The programme which is being supported by the Lagos State first lady will be read by her sometimes before the end of the year. However, this aspect of the show will be used as part of the October 1 independence anniversary of the country.

Right now, we are calling for entries from children between 8 – 18 years. After that, all we do is select top 20 kids and then we will work with the children on leadership and speech writing workshop. This will last for 10 days. We have already got our panel of judges who will now select the number one speech out of the whole lot. The winner’s speech will then be presented to Mrs. Fashola to be read in September and aired on television come October 1.

Why are you involving the First Lady in this?

Emm… In the first place, we feel she loves the kids. She loves children a lot and you can always see that in her. She is very keen on children. She attends a lot of functions involving children and you could see how she relates with them. It is so amazing, you know. Now we feel the children will benefit more from her motherly love and attention. By interacting with her, they will also learn a lot about her and what she stands for. This is one way the children will also be much more involved even at this level of creativity and all. She really shows her deep love for children and her presence will equally inspire our kids to be like her in terms of leadership; in terms of motherly care and comportment.

So, when I pushed the project to her, oh, she said she loved it and would be part of it. And it didn’t surprise me even though she didn’t know me, she agreed to be part of it.

There’s too much of the English Language in the kids. Are you trying to do some of these experiments in our local languages?

No, I am not doing that and I must be honest with you. And now I will tell you why. Currently, I am looking at the exams they are going for. If you look at NECO, WAEC and JAMB, they do not do well in English Language, English Literature, Biology and so on. If you look at the scores in the subjects I have mentioned, they failed all round. My focus now is to get them to be passionate about learning. If you teach them to be passionate about learning, the likely hood of their thinking well is there.

You see, the reason why kids fail is that they are no longer interested in education. This is why the approach to education now has to be different. We have to get them interested first and then other issues will follow. This is why we use issues that they love; issues that appeal to them most to get education closer to them. What is in it for them is to go to school. It is not good enough to say to them to go to school. You have to explain to them why and this has to be through good examples of the things they are familiar with.

So, it is left for us to discover the areas they are gifted. Some are gifted in the art while some in the sciences. So, ours is to teach them which way to go. So after this, we help them to polish this talent and then take it further in order to make them the best they can be. When they finish, they don’t need to beg for a job because they have their talents well developed to be on their own.

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