Human first, worker later: An art school in a Meghalaya town takes a different route

What appears to be an art school for children and young adults at Nongstoin town in Meghalaya is actually much larger in scope than only making students put colours on paper.

The place is neither a tuition centre nor a school; it could be called a learning centre, a knowledge centre, perhaps a place to refine and develop not just art skills but a personality as a whole.

The walls shine with artwork made by students, who appear to show a hundred different emotions, from paintings as simple as the sun coming up behind a hill to a dark, sophisticated charcoal portrait.

In a small town as Nongstoin, some 95 kilometres from state capital Shillong, the Khmih Creative Society acts as a springboard for young people who want to express themselves and eventually, take a shot at making a full career out of the arts.

This learning centre is a serious endeavour. Most towns in the north-east do not have the infrastructure, facilities and support system that help students get exposure to face the competition they would be subjected to as they grow older. A learning centre as the one in Nongstoin gives them confidence.
The teachers, who are themselves multi-skilled in the arts, from painting to music, say the art they are teaching at the school serves as the starter of conversations with young students who come there with questions about themselves and not only to learn art.
It turns out the art school monitors the output of the students to see what kind of personality they are developing -- the paintings speak a lot -- and the teachers intervene with questions about what the students are going through in life. Most of them open up, the teachers say. The students are then given career advice, and if necessary, direct support in the form of helping with admissions and applications.

"No one can survive without formal school education in an industrialised world."

But it is to small learning centres as this one that the credit must go for ensuring children grow up as humans and not machines.

The main church at Nongstoin, headquarters of West Khasi Hills district, Meghalaya.

Nongstoin as seen from a hill on the outskirts of the town.

Shillong-Nongstoin highway.