Kolkata: Thirteen-year-old Piyali Seal wants to anchor radio programmes for women and does a lifelike imitation of a cat’s meow—the signature tune of a radio station in Kolkata aimed at female listeners. Right now, she’s busy throwing questions on child labour at a guest on the programme she’s hosting with four other children on Jadavpur University’s community radio station, 90.8 FM.
Twice a week, Piyali, a resident of Sovabazar in north Kolkata, travels to Jadavpur University, 16km away, to record her show. She gets a Rs50 travelling allowance and a meal for every day that she goes there, being among 20 children from underprivileged families being trained to become reporters by the university’s School of Media, Communication and Culture in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund, or Unicef.
Training ground: Child radio reporters inside the radio studio of Jadavpur University in Kolkata. Indranil Bhoumik / Mint
“The objective of this programme is to encourage and engage children to speak out on issues which concern them using radio as the medium,” says Anil Gulati, the communication officer at Unicef’s West Bengal office. “This also is play and learn, wherein not only they learn about issues, functioning of radio but also enjoy being a reporter.”
The programme, called Shishu Tirtha, includes training in journalistic techniques, use of microphones and recording devices, and writing scripts and storyboards. The aim is to eventually turn them into citizen journalists.
The 20 children picked for training were divided into four groups, each specializing in subjects such as child labour, domestic violence, drugs and the environment. A number of interviews have been recorded and they will be aired every Sunday starting 16 November.
The three-month programme was aimed at giving children a voice, and so they are being allowed to ask the questions they like when interviewing people. When the children were asked to talk about the police, they started coming up with questions such as “why do the police beat people” and “why are people scared of going to the police?”
“The fact that they are asking such questions shows we have succeeded in no small measure,” says Nilanjana Gupta, director of the school. However, she also concedes that the duration of the programme— three months—and the reach of Jadavpur University’s community radio station—a 10 km radius—are limiting factors.
Back at the studio, 10-year old Shubhadeep Mistri, the youngest member of his group, is packing his bags to go home after receiving a number of tips on the Child Labour Prevention and Regulation Act. “I didn’t quite understand how a bill becomes an Act but I will tell the young boy who works at a tea stall near my house how to fight for his rights,” says Mistri.