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Friday, 25 January 2013 12:00

Durla Armand and Emilie Rosse – The story of two teen girls

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Capabilities, skills and talents blossom when they are nurtured properly. However, for some, the reality is completely different. Considered as school drop-outs, Durla Armand and Emilie Rosse, both aged 16, were given a second chance to education and life itself at the Craft Academy, Poste de Flacq.
Their pathway inspired writer Barlen Pyamootoo, who, under the guidance of artist Ilse Mikula, created the art book ‘Nou Rises’ (Our Riches). The book is a window into their lives, in which they find the right path to success. News on Sunday met with the teens who expressed their inner feelings.

Freshly released on 17 January, the art book ‘Nou Rises’ gives us an insight into the lives of six teenagers who have not been able to pursue their studies but have found their pathway despite all odds. Through stories and rich images, they narrate their journeys as teens dealing with life's ups and downs. Durla Armand and Emilie Rosse are the two teen girls of the group, who recounted stories of their lives which have marked them deeply.

From a bare sense of self-worthiness, they have matured to become positive individuals through their apprenticeship at the Craft Academy at Poste de Flacq. The empowerment programme led by the art teachers at the academy, Colette Bernon & Alexendra Arlapen, the teens were able to express themselves and their talents in a constructive environment. “Our teachers encouraged us very much. We really liked their way to teach and they were very nice to us,” they said.

Emilie and Durla’s stories are the bare reflections of the life of many teens in the island. Stopping school at the age of 14, both girls found themselves alienated from the society. After much hardship, Emilie, who was in a Pre-Vocational class, decided to drop her studies.

“I spent a year at home. My mother heard about the Craft Academy and she encouraged me to join it. It was better than to stay at home aimlessly. I’ve learned so many things there,” she said. Learning at the Craft Academy was deliverance for her; a place which opened the doors to knowledge. Through art, they could freely express themselves and discovered their creative abilities. Art also acted as a means of communication and social integration.

Durla's studies discontinued when her college closed its doors and she couldn't join other academic institutions. Having nowhere to turn to, she joined the Craft Academy that enabled her to discover in her painting a dormant passion: “I was not interested at all in handicrafts and arts. It was hard at the beginning as I didn’t know how to paint. But with time it all came naturally. I still remember my first day at the craft academy. I drew a fish,” she told us merrily. In a society where many slow learners are not given second chances to have access to formal education, learning through creative and artistic means such as painting and sculpture, help to improve academic achievement, build self-esteem and stimulate creative expressions. Alongside, the teens were taught numeracy, literacy & languages through games, wordplay and typography design said their teacher, Colette Bernon to us.

Niched at the Debarcadère, Poste de Flacq, with a splendid view on the lagoon just in front, the Craft Academy offers a peaceful environment to the teens. Far from their homes, they could forget about their hardships and exploit their inner potentials. This is what Durla told us she most liked there.

“I felt free. With the lagoon just in front, I felt inspired.” What most amazed us about Durla is that she learnt good manners, values and respect from her teachers at the Craft Academy. “My teachers there were completely different from those I had in the mainstream school. They made me feel important and at ease. You could ask them ten times about something you have not grasped and they will not feel annoyed or fed up with you at all,” she stated. On the same line, Emilie argued that if she could change one thing in the education system, it is the attitude of certain teachers who did not encourage them at all.

After nearly two and a half years at the Craft Academy, the girls left not only with a certificate in their hands but with clear objectives in their mind. With pride and joy they feel ready to embark on a career. Emilie projects having her own craft business and working in the artisanal field. Durla who is the proud mother of a four-month old son, voiced out that when her son would be one-year-old she would be looking for work in handicrafts and paintings. She secretly dreams of becoming a singer and said she has the zeal for it.

Inspiring stories
They surely didn't think that one day the story of their lives would be written forever in a book. But more than just mere storytelling or image depictions, the girls wanted to inspire other teens through the book 'Nou rises'. "I want to tell the youngsters not to give up at any cost. They too can become independent adults by pursuing their studies in whatever domain they like and are good at. Every job has its value," advised Emilie. She strongly encourages girls to study because "if one does not have education he/she won't get a job."

Durla Armand confessed that her joining the craft academy was a life changing action. "I've changed a lot. I used to be very mischievous but the teachers there taught me how to be a better person." She knows that there is still much more out there to learn but she aspires for a better future for her and her child. "Education is a great thing. I would also like to tell the youngsters that they have to know how to live a decent life. They must be careful for not making mistakes that they might regret afterwards."

"Nou Rises" is the first book of a series released under the aegis of 'Récit de Vie', which is a book development project. The proceeds will go towards a fund aiming at providing the means to the participants to develop their professional ambitions. The aim is to give them allowances to create their own crafts and buy necessary tools and materials or to get further training. The book is in three versions; Creole, French and English. It is sold at Rs 500 at the Nelson Mandela Centre, Pointe-aux-Sables
Jameela Jaddoo

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