Helping girls become better writers

There is so much more to Bisiya than what people know about.”
It’s a statement that was said in different ways by the students and the more that we spend time in one of the conference halls of the Ladies Bisiya School the more that it made sense.
A two-hour drive from the city of Muscat, Bisiya village is located about 30 kilometres away from the historic town of Bahla and a few metres closer to the iconic Jabreen Castle.
The right turn we took headed to the village opened up a wide open space of land with nothing on it except for dusts and bushes, some dying while some others getting pampered by the slowly changing weather.
We drove that empty road for a good ten minutes constantly bothering our designated driver for the day if we were headed to the right direction as nothing seemed to be on sight.
In a distance, we can see towering mountains, one of which, I presumed is the popular site of the castle ruins of Salut — an Iron and Bronze age fortification that proved that the area has been a constant home to different groups of people.
On the early morning of Tuesday, our team of three representing Oman Observer was headed to the village to fulfil an agenda — teach the students from this all-girl school not only writing and interview techniques but some core aspects of Journalism and social media management.
The morning drive was uneventful and with the weather giving in to the cold wind of winter, it was a fine day to be out and about.
As a part of a corporate social responsibility project, Oman Observer partnered with Al Hazem Team, a sports club from the area, that considered helping tap the potential of the youth not only in sports but education and environmental protection as core responsibilities.
We arrived at the school, said to be around 40 years old, but only within the last decade, converted to an all-girl school.
Welcomed by Salim al Qassabi, representing Al Hazem Team, we were instructed of the conditions.
The morning’s seminar-workshop will have around 40-50 participants. The age of the girls ranges from 12 to 17.
“They are eager and excited to join today’s session. More were planning to attend but we have to put a limit to the number of participants,” the English teacher in charge of the day’s event told us.
They brought us to the Principal’s Office, the feeling of which reminded us of our own growing up years. Typical of any Principal’s office, it houses the school’s achievements as well as a few posters that are part of the school’s core values.
The school was very typical as seen in the rest of the country with the girls dressed in their blue and white uniforms. Artworks, writings and posters were displayed in different parts of the compound. The halls are empty as classes were on-going.

Eager beavers
We were led to a room where a projector and a laptop were placed ready in the front waiting for us, the students, with their pens and paper handy.
We created the day’s programme to be interactive. The two-hour event divided into three segments. The first is an overview of Journalism, Oman Observer and the organisational structure of the company. The second, the interview process and the writing tips and tricks and lastly, the competition.
The two hours flew so fast with the students lively participating in every segment. They noticeably enjoyed more the role play where they were tasked to ask critically analysed questions.
“What do you do when the person you want to interview is not responding?” One of the students asked before the break.
“You have to find a different source. That’s the beauty of journalism, there will always be an expert in a certain field that can help you develop your story,” was the response that led to several more questions.
Because the students were encouraged to ask question at any time, they were given a better chance to fully comprehend what they were taught.
At the end of the session, several of the girls demonstrated their eagerness to pursue their interest to practice media.
Even their English teacher shared that it was a fully productive day and the girls “were really thankful for all the learning they have received in such a short amount of time.”

Competition-ready
The training the girls received was designed to aid them to come up with a well-thought out, well-written investigative reports for the writing competition the Al Hazem team has prepared for them.
The participants are asked to write a minimum of 500-word report of which will be judged according to creativity, authenticity and clarity of the report.
Majority of the girls shared that they will be joining with several of them planning to pursue topics such as fashion in Bisiya, what people don’t know about Salut, crafts and culture not many people know and endemic to the area amongst others.
“This is a great way to help these girls develop their interest for writing,” Salim shared.
“Al Hazem has been sponsoring different events for the youth of Bisiya. I know they have learned so much in today’s activity,” he added.

Titash Chakraborty & Yeru Ebuen