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Build confidence and communication skills through speech and drama

Today in the spotlight of Little Stars is the Conte Preschool and Institute of Speech and Drama and Communication Skills and its principal Jumana Dohadwala Lukmanjee. She is a dramaturgist and educationist who has helped hundreds of children improve their language skills, teamwork, and many more skills they need to succeed. She is currently reading for her master’s degree too. Jumana has years of experience in training kids and believes that engaging in speech and drama allows young people to express themselves, explore their imaginations, and develop and present their own ideas.

Located down Havelock Road, Colombo 6, Conte Preschool and Institute of Speech and Drama and Communication Skills has been officially operational since 2013. Recently, they produced their very first stage play and it was a huge success. Its principal, Jumana, shared her experiences with The Sunday Morning Little Stars.

Can you tell us about your school, its inception, and how you decided to start this institution?
I officially set up an English language/drama school in 2013, but I have been teaching in this field for almost two decades – well, I did take a few breaks in the middle, but there was no looking back once the school was established. I was determined to bring my dream to fruition when I observed a dearth of creativity, scarcity of immaculate parlance, and an overall paucity of self-expression amongst children in Sri Lanka while working in different settings and with varied age groups. 

What are the milestones of your career so far? And what are your future goals?
There have been many milestones, but the two most recent and significant are when I received my Licentiate in teaching speech from the UK in 2019, with distinction, and the second was my first children’s theatre production where I produced and directed a play and a piece of musical theatre which was a roaring success. As for goals, I hope to complete my master’s soon, as I’m reading for it currently in the relevant field, and I plan to expand with more branches and do a lot more creative work with children.

Why do you think it’s important to learn English/ elocution from a young age?
As we all know, English today is a very widely accepted and spoken language, and to excel in varied academic disciplines including history, geography, economics, etc. you need to write and express yourself in English. Therefore, it will be accurate to say learning English is a staple now, as equally important as learning your first language. English elocution can be used as a lethal weapon as it is an art that can help you stand out in the crowd. Elocution helps you with clear pronunciation, impeccable enunciation, good articulation, and great diction, which is important for perfect speech delivery that can capture the attention of the listener – in today’s times, this is considered an important factor. As I always tell my students: Speaking a language is not just a muscular attribute, but an expressive habit. And when children start learning and applying these skills at a young age, they acquire it effortlessly and naturally without any pressure as they are in the adaptive stage of their development. Also, a language skill learned at a tender age is restored to perfection in their memory for the rest of their life.

How important is teamwork in drama?
One important aspect of drama lessons is teamwork. This fosters friendship and loyalty. The importance of teamwork is evident in today’s multidisciplinary world and should be well incorporated in all classrooms and instilled in our students from a young age. Teamwork motivates students, helps them develop a close-knit relationship, and moreover, eradicates language and social barriers. When students work in groups they are given equal opportunity to mingle with the others – this encourages a parallel amalgamation of self-learning which is truly satisfying for a teacher to watch.

How can speech and drama help a child?
Speech and drama is a perfect medium for helping children acquire both confidence and effective communication skills. It allows space for young people to express themselves, explore their imagination, and develop and present their own ideas. Researchers have proved that drama lessons help children develop observation and listening skills, making them better readers and powerful thinkers due to the imagination aspect attached to it. Drama fosters an appreciation of literature and poetry, which our local students are not always privileged to learn due to our national syllabus framework that does not encourage English literature at a young age. Speech and drama refines a student’s technical skills, verbal skills, and artistry. It improves the standard of communication and brings great confidence. Speech and drama inculcates emotional intelligence in a student – a much needed subject to be covered with today’s generation.

How can one join your institute and how will it help them?
Joining any of my elocution lessons mentioned above is a simple affair. I am only particular about meeting the student before confirming the enrolment so that I could develop a brief understanding of the candidate’s demeanour and also to ascertain the parent’s need on the area they want me to work on. This is because I conduct many classes – spoken English/ written English, public speaking/ effective speaking, speech and drama, and school English (Cambridge and Edexcel) – where students from the age of three and a half are being enrolled. It helps them to join my institution as I am affiliated with most eminent examination bodies and I do not endorse any particular one. I send students for examinations once a year, and that too only if a parent is willing. I am affiliated with the IWMS (Institute of Western Music and Speech), Trinity UK, LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art) UK, CALSDA (Colombo Academy of Language Skills and Dramatic Art), IEMS (Institute for Examinations in Music and Speech), and The British Council for Cambridge and Edexcel. Therefore, parents have the liberty to make a decision and choose their preference . If someone wishes to join, he or she can get the parent to visit our institute located at 419A, Havelock Road, Colombo 6 or give us a call on 0771 524 696.