Anushe Khan, the founder of the programme Speak Up, truly believes in the importance of inculcating confidence and clear communication in children. With a five-year background in the corporate sector, Anushe created this programme, following her instincts, and has grown significantly in just one-year’s time.
From giving classes at her home, she has now introduced Speak Up in several schools.
We spoke to her about her venture and how it's helped children over Karachi.
What exactly is Speak Up?
In a nutshell, Speak Up is a programme for future leaders. In order to excel in any sphere in life, a child needs the ability to express himself without holding back, and that is where I come in. I teach children to articulate themselves in a small, moderated environment through storytelling and debate (depending on the age group). I focus on different aspects of speech i.e. body language, vocal expression (volume, tone, etc.) and the content itself to make them speak as best as they can. There is no formula really, just exercises to help them better themselves. What works well is the activities and the interaction children have with one another and me. Just by building those connections, children ease up and without fail there is some level of improvement, however major or minor.
What motivated you to start this programme?
My general anxiety as a child. I was the sort who would always be quiet even if I had a question or if I knew an answer, and although I’ve been lucky enough to overcome it through experience, I think if I had developed the ability to speak my mind with clarity at a younger age, there would have been many benefits. I also worked in the corporate sector for five years, and the more exposure I had to different people, the more I realised that the key ingredient to doing well is to be self-assured and to speak your mind. I then thought back to where I can create that impact in a way that sticks, and the age groups that cropped up were 7-10 as well as early adolescence. The 7-10-year- olds are eager to learn and easy to communicate with, while 11-13 need it most in terms of guidance and to set the foundation for their future years.
Tell us about your process when you launched Speak Up.
It began with a simple class of 5, one of the students came to study English at my house and his mother very generously offered her space for me to conduct these classes. I got the opportunity to pilot the idea with a group of 5 boys who went to different schools. Their interaction and the rapid improvement I saw showed me the potential that existed within the programme. I went back to the drawing board, created a modular approach to learning the skills, and since then there’s been no looking back.
How do you feel this programme will benefit children today?
Most of our interactions are now in the virtual world and as a result, children and their ability to connect with others face to face is impacted. The programme is geared to teach children how to manage conflict, express themselves, give constructive criticism, and explore their creativity. By building their interpersonal skills and creating a safe space, children can readily explore their full potential.
You started out privately, tutoring at home. How did you eventually move to schools?
Currently, I teach at home as well as in schools. Once I had conducted a few batches, I approached schools with my profile and idea. A few responded with one term, and then there was a trickle-down effect to others. I am conducting this programme in 5 schools currently, and more schools are in the pipeline.
Was it difficult to convince schools to inculcate this programme within their curriculums?
The schools I am a part of did not need convincing. They knew that the skill set was valuable. Others have been coming around to the idea based on the success of the programme.
Give us a run-through of what would typically take place in a Speak Up class?
I like to believe that most classes are dynamic and the lesson plan is flexible. What does remain the same is that I teach a concept, reinforce it through activity and then we practice. The only way to get better at something is to keep at it, and that’s the goal. We like to keep things fun, light, and learn through play. In the end, we also give each other feedback on our speech/story (sometimes I too am given feedback.)
What goes into making your lesson plans for this programme?
Research and a mix of activities. Every child learns differently, so some activities are more visual, others tactile, depending on the children who are attending.
What is the most challenging aspect of running such a unique programme?
That there is no set formula and I have to evolve my method and lesson with each class. What works with one batch may not work with another, so there’s no room for complacency. It’s what makes it an adventure too.
What do you love most about your classes?
The kids and their ability to connect with me as well as with each other. Children are incredibly resilient and given the right tools, it doesn’t take much for them to improve. It’s amazing to see their progress within a few classes, and it really makes it worth the while.