Using “Drama in Education” to empower communities

Plans are in the making to establish a training centre in Grenada that will help empower people using Drama in Education (DiE).

Christopher Roger Williams gives details about his Drama in Education Centre

Christopher Roger Williams gives details about his Drama in Education Centre

This is the dream of Christopher Roger Williams also known as ‘Frenchie’, who recently graduated from the Edna Manley College of the Visual & Performing Arts in Jamaica on November 4, with a Bachelors of Arts in Drama and Education.

(DiE) is a term broadly used to define a set of practices which privilege make-believe play as a significant learning medium in the human lifespan.

In an interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper last week Friday, the 40-year-old from Coals Gap La Sagesse, St. David, who graduated with honours at the top of his class said, “The plan is to create a center, build a strong body (and) move from community to community empowering people.”

“I have the land already…I want to set up (the centre) right in Coals Gap, (St. David),” he told THE NEW TODAY.

Frenchie is also a qualified French teacher at the Happy Hill Secondary School (HHSS).

In 2011, he commenced a 4-year Drama in Education programme at the 6-division Jamaican institution on a government scholarship.

Since his return to the island, he has established the ‘Happy Hill Theater Co.’ with HHSS students.

“After 2 months they have done 2 flash mob appearances in front of the Esplanade Mall in St. George’s and performed at the recently held 40-year celebration concert of the St. George’s Baptist Church,” he said.

Frenchie recalled that although it has only been 2 months he is already seeing positive results.

“Violent students are calming down, students are expressing stress and depression…they are learning to cope…so we are saving a lot of lives through drama,” he proclaimed.

Frenchie has been a teacher since 1994. He taught French for close to 18 years before making a transition to theatre at the Forms 2 and 3 levels.

The schoolteacher began his French literacy at the Grenada Boys Secondary School (GBSS).

He also studied French at the T.A. Maryshow Community College (TAMCC), before traveling across the French speaking Caribbean and to France, where he received further training and even taught as a French teacher.

Speaking on his latest accomplishment, he said: “For me it’s a milestone because there has been a lot of challenges…I lost my father during the process (but) the feeling is beyond joy…I am overjoyed, overwhelmed, honoured, high spirited because I know what I have acquired and what I can do.”

“What I have learned is not for me,” Frenchie said, pointing out, “drama in education is not for the person who has the degree, it’s actually for the persons who need it. And so, I needed it, now I have it and now I can pass it on to (other) persons who actually really need it.”
Frenchie described DiE as “an exploration process,” exploring issues, problems and finding effective solutions.

“That’s what drama does…so I can bring people through that process and help them explore and discover, find solutions, and empower themselves. So my role is to (help) empower people who may be feeling weak, depressed, or have low self-esteem and help them find a way forward,” he added.

“Drama in education can be effective for all fields, whether it be climate change, Water conservation, solid waste management, insurance, road safety, things that would impact a community, not just one man.

It can (also) be used within any subject or discipline, Maths, Physics, you name it, because what it does is give students a voice, they open up, learn faster and discover more. So instead of the teacher alone having a voice, you dramatise things, put them (the students) in situations,” Frenchie explained.

“What I am bringing back is a joy to help people surmount the many challenges that exist in society that they don’t know how to deal with,” said Frenchie who is the recipient of the 2015 Chairman’s award for being the most outstanding all round student and the Principal’s award for the most outstanding education student at the Jamaican learning institution.

Frenchie, who is also into film production, described his learning experience as a “rough and challenging” one, with loads of work, discoveries, and research.

“The training is intense, it’s kind of like boot camp. You are first trained as an actor and then you are trained as a teacher to specialise in Drama and Education and then as a teacher specialising in Education Psychology so it’s three things happening at the same time.”

Frenchie said he has done a lot of work in Jamaica going around the country (with different groups) helping people.

He said his accomplishment is one that “Grenada would have to take advantage of…having accomplished this, it means that Grenada has now achieved a milestone as well in terms of the development of the education system, youth and community development,” he added.

According to Frenchie, the centre, which he intends to call “The Grenada Acting and Film School”, would be accessible to everyone.

“You don’t have to be qualified or certified in anything (subject area). Anybody can come to that school and we will design courses… because of the power of drama in education,” he explained.

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