According to Unicef, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the closure of around 1.5 million schools in India and affected 247 million children. One of the hardest-hit regions is Kashmir, where young students reside in a conflict zone and have experienced immense fear, trauma, extended school shutdowns, and lack of access to educational resources and infrastructure. Such discontinuities in education create an inimical environment, hampering the development of creativity in childhood and adolescence. However, the issues of developing creativity are not region-specific to Kashmir. This is a problem for students at all levels of learning with a refugee status residing in conflict areas, especially during the current pandemic.
Creativity is regarded as an essential skill for a 21st-century learner and is widely considered key to effective early, middle and higher education. However, in recent times, school education systems have struggled to incorporate creativity and innovation in classrooms and have failed to deliver it to students in a context-sensitive way. Incorporating creativity in learning cannot happen through an instruction-based approach. Young learners cannot be filled with didactic information; they are curious individuals and learn better through an active engagement with their environment. Therefore, creative aspects need to be built into modes of instruction, and innovative pedagogical frameworks should be used for better academic outcomes.
Creativity promotes psychological, social, and emotional wellbeing
Students brought up in a conflict area often have pent-up anger and release it through any medium possible. A few years ago, an Australian art therapist named Dena Lawrence conducted art sessions for Kashmiri children. Their paintings reflected dark themes, with most students reporting that they felt anger and rage (Ganai, 2012). Creative ideas can only free flow when a child is happy and enthusiastic; sadness leads to increased inhibition of creative ideas (Gasper, 2011). In such cases, if teachers can intervene to channel these emotions through the arts, dance and music, it can be a cathartic process to release negative emotions.
Creativity helps overcome inequalities in education induced by Covid-19
A post-pandemic teaching strategy should encompass learning through the use of pictures, folk songs and other regionally specific tools to engage students in refugee areas. The intention is to make education as inclusive and holistic as possible by integrating local themes with universal concepts. Roohi Sultana, a teacher from Kashmir selected for the National teacher’s Award 2020, uses plastic covers of flour packets to write (Sharma, 2020). She also creates shapes and figures with dried tea leaves and uses them to create a highly interactive classroom for students. Such creative initiatives reduce the extant inequalities in low-income refugee communities induced by Covid-19. It also enables children having no access to educational resources such as notebooks, pencils and crayons to employ creative means for gaining an education.
Creativity in learning should focus on socially conscious, sustainable and mental health reforms
Post-pandemic, the educational landscape has changed multifold worldwide. Accordingly, the curriculum needs to be revamped to be more socially conscious of the times we live in, primarily catering to the needs of refugee children. A holistic curriculum should introduce students to mental health resources and counsellors to better equip students to handle conflict-based trauma. The curriculum should also focus on ways to make children actively think about sustainable development and climate change. In Kashmir, Sagg Eco Village – an ecocultural and educational farm designed to make children more conscious about the world they inhabit – is doing just that (see Nabi, 2021).
Schools and teachers must be equipped in a post-pandemic world to provide skills and tools to students to use their creative skills. The proliferation of creative skills at an early level in students from refugee communities will provide them with access and inclusion to educational opportunities. It can also lead to socially innovative ideas, which will enable these young minds to grow up to be leaders who have the potential to solve the world’s most challenging problems.
Egan, A., Maguire, R., Christophers, L., & Rooney, B. (2017). Developing creativity in higher education for 21st-century learners: A protocol for a scoping review. International Journal of Educational Research, 82, 21–27. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijer.2016.12.004
Ganai, N. (2012, May 7). Art therapy for traumatised Kashmiri youngsters. India Today. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/north/story/art-therapy-for-traumatised-kashmiri-youngsters-108118-2012-07-05
Gasper, K. (2011). Permission to seek freely? The effect of happy and sad moods on generating old and new ideas. Creativity Research Journal, 215–229. https://doi.org/10.1080/10400419.2004.9651454
Nabi, H. (2021, March 5). Sagg Eco Village: Making education fun for children. Rising Kashmir. http://risingkashmir.com/home/news_description/373208/Sagg-Eco-Village-Making-education-fun-for-children
Sharma, U. (2020, August 31). Kashmir teacher, who uses scrap material to educate poor kids, selected for national award. The Print. https://theprint.in/india/education/kashmir-teacher-who-uses-scrap-material-to-educate-poor-kids-selected-for-national-award/492992/