Kuch Karo

We arrived at Lead High School in Nazimabad No. 4 a good half hour before the kids were supposed to show up. This gave us plenty of time to take deep breaths, compose ourselves and put some final touches to the Idea Room. 

Carpeted with chattais and with walls lined with chart paper, chipboard, and both blackboards and their fairer cousins, the Idea Room is where the magic happens. "This will be their space," Maliha had told me earlier. With most surfaces in the room pen-friendly, the concept of this space is to allow the kids to write, visualize and then collectively appreciate each others ideas. 

At around 10:15, they arrived. I had (almost) imagined the earth shaking slightly and the door frames trembling to signal their coming, but the 16 students who walk in are super well-mannered, docile and, of course, at least as nervous as us (which was quite a bit). 

As an ice-breaker to kickstart the workshop, Maliha asked the group to share something "cool and weird" about themselves. (For instance, Maliha has the uncanny ability to recognize fonts, be very picky about them, and, thus, become offended by a piece of text regardless of what it says.) This attempt was not very successful. It was probably the kids' nerves that made them quite unresponsive. 

Things, however, began to look better when the group was asked what they thought they would like to be when they grew up and write their thoughts on a blackboard.  

We were thrilled to discover that in our Idea Room we had a future President (Faiq), 3 doctors (Shiza, Maliha, Tamkeen), 2 architects (Rehan, Ashar), 2 chartered accountants (Usman, Qasim), a war reporter and politician (Ayesha), a social welfare worker (Maha), a nutritionist (Bakhtawar), an archaeologist (Ruquiea), a fashion designer (Alishba), a footballer (Rauf), a badminton player and cricketer (Mohtashim), and a software engineer (Taha) - and one sexy looking blackboard. 

From here, the discussion meandered towards Pakistan. When asked, "Who wants to save their country?" everyone's hand shot up. The group then tabulated a preliminary list of problems in the country, with each child contributing one problem to the list. They then tried to band similar problems together under headings and link with problems brought up earlier to create a sense of organization and interconnectedness.

When prompted to contribute, Alishbah softly said, "I do not want to save anything because I don't think anything can be saved." The rest of the group, however, did not share her jadedness. The impressively aware participants contributed problem after problem until yet another board was full. These kids wanted to eradicate corruption, street crime, target killing, pollution, deforestation and loadshedding. When pressed for possible solutions, a number of them even had something to offer. By the end of the discussion, Alishbah decided that there was something to save after all.

The discussions only became more interactive during the post-lunch half of the session.  Maliha led the discussion towards the topics of persuasion, debate and decision-making. The group touched on why these skills are important, where they are used, thought about everyday instances where they would be utilized and acted them out. Such scenarios included a daughter begging her father for permission to go out and presidential candidates giving speeches about the national ice cream flavour of Pakistan. It was probably the garlic mayo rolls in their bellies that made even the quieter kids more responsive. Rauf, who had barely talked until then, let out a loud, "Aaloo wallaaay" as he pretended to be an aaloo walla persuading people to buy his wares.  

I am sure the kids left the Idea Room feeling delightfully flustered. One question Maliha repeatedly asked everyone was: why? Why, I've realized, is a question that isn't asked enough of us, not in our schools, not in our workplaces. It is, therefore, frustrating to be asked why you said something or why you feel or think the way you do because, well, isn't it obvious? But it isn't. 

Saba Anvery
6/19/2012 06:26:05 am

Well done :)
I agree. 'why' is hardly used. It should be. It is very powerful; helps sift the actual knowledge from the crud.
Looking forward to reading the next post :)

6/19/2012 02:11:09 pm


Thanks for commenting!

6/19/2012 02:10:41 pm

Sounds like a dynamic first day. Looking forward to how the workshops progress!

6/21/2012 08:08:01 am

We're trying to update this blog on a daily basis. Keep checking!

6/19/2012 11:27:54 pm

Excellent first day! Looking forward to reading more updates. Keep up the good work!

6/20/2012 12:52:32 am

This sounds fantastic and A LOT more productive than ordinary days at school for A level going students. I'm so proud of this team I'm sure you're making a difference. :D

6/21/2012 08:08:58 am

I really hope so. Even a little bit of a difference is enough.

6/20/2012 02:52:07 am

Such an exciting start! I'm looking forward to reading more updates on this project.

6/20/2012 03:33:18 am

What a fantastic beginning. "Why" is a fantastic question and I am also looking forward to seeing their eventual "How".

6/21/2012 08:09:43 am

Yeah, we're getting there. Surprising quickly, actually. These kids are so bright. They pick up things really fast.


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