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MatatArt: A different route to school

MatatArt: A different route to school

In Uganda 55% of the population is below 18 years old. About 56% complete primary school, 60% live in informal area’s and 82% use the ‘matatu’ (local bus) to move around. Why these numbers? Because combined they brought into existence a unique and exciting new initiative. ‘MatatArt’ is a mobile all-in-one structure that delivers art to children’s doorstep, even in places where there is little infrastructure, equipment, services or facilities. The ‘MatatArt’ team goes to them, as for many of these children, art, music and literacy is – literally and figuratively - too far from home.

"MatatArt is not seen as an alternative for school, but it can show that learning can also be fun."

I speak with Susan Tasebe and Maria Garbelleto, two of the ‘founding mothers’ of MatatArt: Art that makes you SmArt. Last year they collected 20.000 dollars, which enabled them to buy a matatu and transform it completely to their needs. Now, the matatu drives to three different communities in Kampala. Once a week there is a session for twenty recruited school drop-out kids, while the others kids go to class.

Susan and Maria in front of the Matatu

Susan and Maria in front of the Matatu

The sessions combine three aspects: literacy, music and visual art. This is a new approach to education. MatatArt is not seen as an alternative for school, but it can show that learning can also be fun. With the combination of literacy, music and visual arts, the mentors try to stimulate creative thinking, problem solving, self-expression and the ability to change your community.

‘’Give them ways to express themselves: give them not only technical skills or fun, it’s a combination.’’

© Sam Deckers

© Sam Deckers

This is what a session looks like

- The mentors start with a welcome. The children get a hug or handshake when they come in, so they feel accepted. Then the children and the mentors sing a song together where they welcome each other.

- The second part is the reading out loud: this is when the mentor reads a story - most of the time with an important life lesson. Thereafter, they discuss the book.

‘’Children love this because most parents don’t read to them.’’

© Sam Deckers

© Sam Deckers

- After that, there is a community building part. Here the children learn about each other in the form of games and bond.

- The next part is about expressive art. An example that children can do is: think about the world, how can it be, how should it be; everything is possible. Combined with their own imagination, another option is to act this out. Then the children present their world and praise each other in what they liked about each others worlds.

- After about 2 hours, they end with a goodbye song.

The future of MatatArt

The sessions started on the 19th of June 2017, but the ladies of MatatArt have higher hopes for the future. They are planning on visiting two more communities, have extra activities on Saturdays and a special session every month with an artist (for example poetry, dance or drama).

Although not to be seen as an alternative for school, the MatatArt project can have life-changing consequences for the 44% of Ugandan kids that do not finish primary school. For them, this might just be the beginning of a new route to school.

@ Sam Deckers

@ Sam Deckers

Matatart is a project of Art of a Child in collaboration with artists and professionals from all over the world.

Story by Marijne Scherjon.

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