A.R.T’s Drama Education Project (2013)

A.R.T’s Drama Education Project is a fun-based educational programme targeted primarily at students of Literature in English at senior secondary school level, expanding to involve students of the arts and the senior secondary school students in general.

Theatre education program

At The School for the Gifted, a student reads along with our actors. (Photo: Wale Ayeni)

The goals are simple:

1. To provide a practical base for the studies of Literature in English in senior secondary schools, thus broadening the literary experience.
2. To aid students in their preparations for Literature in English examinations, such as the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
3. To promote reading culture and actively involve teenagers by, not only encouraging, but, engaging them in reading performances of plays.
4. To ignite the creativity and imagination of the younger generations through fun-based learning.

The problem
Theatre performances in Nigeria (and indeed most parts of Africa) are very limited. Out of the 36 states only a few can claim to play host to theatre shows, and these come few and far in between.

Not only does this situation deny the young ones a vital artistic and cultural experience, it means that for their literary studies, as far as drama texts are concerned, these students do not get to see the plays they are studying come to life on a stage.

High school students

Young and impressionable, the future. (Photo: Wale Ayeni)

A play, as is often said in the world of theatre and literature, is dead until it has been performed on stage, having the life of theatre breathed into its corpse of words. Though it may seem subtle, the impact a lack or total absence of theatrical performances has on the academic and creative development of teenagers can be far reaching.

Very often some, if not most, of these students don’t study the plays – and other literature texts in prose and poetry as well. They make do with summaries which are usually only read days or a few weeks prior to the exam. This dangerous trend continues at the University level.

Drama Education Project
What we do, and hope to keep doing, through the Drama Education Project is bring a new dimension to literary education as a necessary and effective addition to the programme which the secondary schools already provide.

This was first experimented with in 2010 when three of our current administrators, who then were final year students of theatre arts from the University of Abuja, performed Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Bansi is Dead in 2 secondary schools in Abuja.

Our Drama Education Project comes in two packages: a reading performance (or staged reading) of the plays and/or a staged performance of the play.

So far this year
We put together a team of young, talented actors and took a reading performance of the play Sons and Daughters by Ghanaian playwright J.C De Graft to 2 secondary schools in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory: Suzz Tenderly Secondary School and The School for the Gifted.

The warm reception we got from both schools was not only encouraging, but provided the ideal environment for the performer-audience interaction required for the project to be truly enjoyable.

Reading interaction

Our actors read as students from Suzz Tenderly Secondary School pay close attention. (Photo: Wale Ayeni)

At The School for the Gifted we were even joined by two students who took part in the reading with our team of actors.

Students creative

At the School for the Gifted, two students, Chidima Akoja (left) and Femi Afolabi (right), joined our actors to take part in the reading performance. (Photo: Wale Ayeni)

Fun-based learning
The simple point is to engage the active minds of these young ones in a fun and educational way outside the standard methods of the classroom. Reading is fun; ask any active reader and they will tell you the thrill of a good book equals that of any blockbuster movie.

actors laughing

A.R.T actors Michael Arrey (left) and Sade Adeosun (right) try, not too successful, to stifle some laughs while reading. (Photo: Wale Ayeni)

However teenagers have more than enough things distracting them, so it is essential to remind them that amidst the excitement of Facebooking, video game playing and movie watching, reading is also fun.

Perhaps the coolest thing about teenagers is, though at first they are reticent and recline from active involvement, once you can break through that barrier you get to see how alive and interesting even the most introverted of them are. Each brimming with vivacity in his or her own unique way.

Strike a pose

A student from Suzz Tenderly Secondary School strikes a pose for the camera (left), while another manages a shy smile (right). (Photo: Wale Ayeni)

joy joyful smile

A student beams with joy as the play is read. (Photo: Wale Ayeni)

J.C De Graft’s Sons and Daughter’s is compulsory reading for students who will be attempting Literature in English in the upcoming Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB) examinations. It was good to get feedback from both students and staff on how the reading performance augmented their understanding and enjoyment of the drama text.

post production

A student (left) commented on how voice modulations renewed her experience of the play. Mr Abba Joseph (right) the Literature in English teacher at the School for the Gifted congratulates the actors after the reading. (Photo: Wale Ayeni)

Perhaps the one disappointment was our inability to include Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet which is also compulsory reading under the same examinations. However, our vision for the Drama Education Project is to provide a performance (staged and reading) of every drama text which the senior secondary school students will be engaged with through different examinations. Tough though it may be, it will be worth it when achieved.

cast and staff

Left – right: Williams Obasi, Adebye Martha, Olawumi Temitayo, Michael Arrey Tabe-Ebob, Mrs. Amaka Akpom, Mr. Malachi Hosea, Sade Adeosun, Adegoke Adewumi, Jiki Jenifar, Ibukun Olofun. (Photo: Wale Ayeni)

A.R.T's team of actors

The cast after the reading performance at Suzz Tenderly Secondary School. (Photo: Wale Ayeni)

It was a fun, heartwarming experience and we can’t wait to go at it again! A.R.T sends its best wishes to all students who are currently partaking in the upcoming West African and Nigerian examinations. Go get em kids!