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Zoom Gloom brought to light 

 

By Kusumanjalee Thilakarathna

Children are not the face of this pandemic. But online school, more screen time, being restricted within the walls of their homes, seeing their loved ones falling sick, not being able to attend school, and many more issues indirectly made children become victims of the pandemic; victims who did not have a voice.

The Children in Lockdown Arts Festival 2021 curated by the Stages Theatre Group and supported by Kindernothilfe (KNH) identified this problem and gave children a platform to voice how they are impacted by the pandemic. The goal of this festival is to highlight these issues from various perspectives including from the lens of children – to bring their voices onto panels alongside adults, to create awareness, and hope for change. It will also highlight the capacity of the arts to support individuals and communities when crises, such as the one we are experiencing, occur.

 

The Children in Lockdown Arts Festival 2021 has brought children right into the centre of the curation of artworks and conversations of this festival, which gathers together artists, children, and adults to reflect on the treatment and experiences of children in Sri Lanka during the Covid-19 pandemic. The festival comprised three days of public screenings and live interactive digital sessions and a closing plenary for select artists in keeping with pandemic restrictions.

 

“Zoom Gloom – All My Teachers Hate Me”, a Zoom film by the Stages Junior Ensemble spoke of an issue faced by children dealing with online schools across the country. The Zoom film showcased the hilarious and horrendous hell of online school that children and adults are trapped in. The short film was devised, performed, and recorded on Zoom by 18 children between the ages of nine and 16, based on their experiences of online schooling during the pandemic.

 

The team behind Zoom Gloom spoke to Little Stars on how their life experiences inspired them to create the Zoom movie.

 

Nikhita Abeywickrema, aged 12, Methodist College

It was really fun getting together with everyone, even though on Zoom, to make it happen. We were able to discuss thoughts and ideas and compile them in a way that we could make them interesting and funny, but still keep them real. It was great to be a part of the production. I learnt a lot.

 

My role in this production was “the bored student”. It’s not easy learning remotely. In the classroom, it’s a different environment. You need to pay attention or else you get pulled up by your teacher. But paying attention to online classes is very difficult. Since it’s not a classroom, your mind tends to wander and you get easily bored. And this is normal for many kids. You are not alone! This is the message I wanted to give through my character.

 

Heili Rambukwella, aged 12, Methodist College 

I played the role of the “sippy cup”. I was excited and thought that doing a Zoom drama was a clever idea. I wanted to show how much not only students, but teachers too are suffering because of the pandemic. Also how we should not lose our spirit, and that if we try we really can make lockdown fun.

 

Buthmi Bandare, aged 12, Bishop’s College 

My character in the play was “the know-it-all”. It was so fun and I enjoyed it a lot and I got to know a lot of things. I wanted to show everyone that it’s fun to do online class. Online schooling and physical school is basically the same thing with a bit of a change. And that we must have fun during this lockdown.

 

Okitha Karunadhara, aged 15, Ananda College

I am one of the directors and I played the role of the only parent in the film. We came up with our own characters using what we observe during online classes. My parent character is a helicopter parent who is present at all times. It was a good platform to depict how we perceived online school.

 

Hans Aluthge, aged nine, S. Thomas’ Preparatory School

I played the role of the “annoying brother”, and it wasn’t a difficult character to play as I myself am an annoying brother. But I am only annoying to my sister.

 

Haimi Aluthge, aged 12, Methodist College 

I played the role of the “snitch”.

 

Kithmi Ranatunge, Methodist College

I played the role of the “school teacher who is trying to be cool”. It’s a role we see in online school. It’s difficult when the teachers are not their real selves. We learnt a lot engaging in this movie. The interaction and the responsibility taught us great lessons.

 

Kenoli Ranatunge, Methodist College

I was one of the directors too and I played the role of the “last in class”. Playing this role, I wanted to give a comedic sense to the film. And it helped me to reassure myself that it is okay to have problems during an online class.

 

Anouk Abeywickrema, Methodist College

It was a really fun experience for me. The rehearsals and the teamwork were a great distraction from the exhaustion of the pandemic and being stuck at home. I played the role of the “distracted teacher”, something we all see during online school. It’s difficult for some teachers to teach and manage other things while they work from home.

 

Reina Gangoda, Visakha Vidyalaya 

There were a lot of challenges we faced as we did Zoom Gloom. But we were able to overcome all that and create a fine product. I played the role of “#wokeupthisway”. I created this role through my own experience. I feel that most of my friends have changed during the lockdowns. We returned to school recently and I felt even my best friend has changed. A lot.

 

Teiru Gangoda, Royal College

It was a really enjoyable experience to be a part of Zoom Gloom. I played the role of the “hacker”. There are a lot of kids who got interested in hacking during the pandemic. There are a lot of my friends who read and learn about this. This inspired me to come up with this character.