Jun 21, 2021

Celebrating Victories for Students and Teachers

Winners of the table tennis tournament.
Winners of the table tennis tournament.

As the world slowly adapts to blended formats of human interaction, our schools have transitioned into a hybrid model of online and in-person activities. Over the last few months we have celebrated sports, mindfulness, poetry and political wins with our students and teachers.

At the start of this year our schools had begun to resume in-person classes, but unfortunately towards the end of April a new wave of coronavirus cases saw schools close once again. This time around bringing online enrichment activities was accompanied with in-person events, to maximise accessibility for students. In the balancing act that followed, we implemented a number of changes and activities in our schools designed to be exciting for students and conducive to child development.

With physical access to school we eased students back into sports activities, which many reported as the class they missed the most. On World Table Tennis Day, the students of Khatoon-e-Pakistan (KPS) took part in a table tennis tournament which was attended by international table tennis player Farrukh Kamal. Earlier in February our students had won accolades in a provincial Tae Kwon Do tournament, and in April the school finally had a chance to acknowledge these students and distribute prizes.

For our Early Years students we incorporated a new book into their Life Skills Based Education class - ‘Mera Jism Mera Hai’ (My Body is Mine) by Ashhad Qureshi – to engage in a dialogue with them on personal safety and boundaries. Through colorful illustrations, a relatable local character and a simple story, this book tactfully teaches children and parents how to create safe spaces as well as how to identify and report child sexual abuse.

As we reverted to an online setting once more, it became more familiar to host activities on digital platforms. Students from our schools exchanged Urdu couplets in a Bait Baazi Competition, a verbal game with a rich tradition, paying tribute to the works of famous poets such as Iqbal, Faiz and Ghalib. Workshops on mindfulness for stress through breathwork were also held for students, as well all school staff. The feedback from holding such events was very positive, and an encouraging sign that our students and teachers find extra-curricular activities that are centered on them enriching and fun.

Actualizing change in education requires better opportunities of development for teachers, which in Pakistan was hampered by an archaic performance evaluation exercise, which used superficial metrics such as ‘typing speed’. We are thrilled to report that after 3 years of consistent advocacy, we have helped the government revamp the performance evaluations of government teachers in the Sindh province. We hope that with a more relevant evaluation now focusing on content mastery, delivery, personal growth, etc. teachers will be able to see how well they teach and where they can improve. This change will take our vision for schools, specifically modern teaching, to public schools across the province and bring us a step closer towards delivering holistic education across Pakistan.

A competitive table tennis match between students.
A competitive table tennis match between students.
Urdu poetry being showcased during a Zoom event.
Urdu poetry being showcased during a Zoom event.
Accolades won at a provincial Tae Kwon Do event.
Accolades won at a provincial Tae Kwon Do event.
Poster for the online Urdu 'Bait Baazi' event.
Poster for the online Urdu 'Bait Baazi' event.

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May 7, 2021

Reimagining Space, Pandemic Art and More

Student submission for Space Art Competition
Student submission for Space Art Competition

Since our last update in January, schools remained opened until April and students continued to arrive in gradual sets of two on alternate days of the week. At this time, the Art Program provided students with many activities and new learning opportunities despite the restrictions faced due to the COVID 19 protocols. In part this was helped by the return of Anam Shakil, who had helped design our art program in 2015, as Head of the Art Program.

Art Submissions

Students from the 7th grade at the schools in Karachi, SMB Fatimah Jinnah Government Girls School and Khatoon e Pakistan Government Girls School as well as at the Shangla Girls School, attended sessions with Yumna Majeed, a space educator who discussed the many wonders of space and the life of an astronaut. She encouraged students to create art for a competition about the different matters found in space which led to selected student submissions being sent to an international competition held by the Space for Art Foundation. The winners of this competition will get a chance to have their art sent to space – a prospect that our students found delightful and fascinating!

Our 9th and 10th grade students also attended a session with Rida Khan, an urban planner from Karachi Public, on a project about the local Clifton Beach. Our students learned about the role of urban planners and after the session submitted their recommendations on what a public beach should look like, as a part of the urban design process.

Art Activities

In art classes, among other fun learning activities, students were introduced to the work of brilliant local artists like Ahmed Parwaz and the calligrapher Anwer Jalal Shemza, also getting a chance to learn and replicate his unique style of gapped calligraphy. Students from Grade 8 at Khatoon e Pakistan Government Girls School also made self-portraits in which they recognized the achievements and problems they faced during the pandemic and represented them in creative ways. Another activity these students were given was to create fashion illustrations using materials that popped out of the page. Students were also told to draw upon their imagination to create animated characters as a part of a character design activity and many of them produced fantastic artworks that can be viewed below.

A Collaborative and Resourceful Approach

Having joined in March, Anam said that she had decided to work with teachers for improving the Art Program by discussing and brainstorming activities and critically thinking about student learning outcomes instead of providing pre-prepared lesson plans. Since the lockdown in April, Anam said, “We adapt activities so no student would need to buy a single resource, asking them to recycle paper, use items found in their kitchens and provide alternative ways of doing their assignments.” Online teaching has been difficult and this resourceful way of creating art has made students excited and kept them engaged. We hope you enjoyed reading and that the creative spirit shown in our students’ art brings you hope in these bleak times.

Student submission for reimagining Clifton Beach
Student submission for reimagining Clifton Beach
Student work inspired by calligrapher Anwer Shemza
Student work inspired by calligrapher Anwer Shemza
Student artwork showing a pandemic self portrait
Student artwork showing a pandemic self portrait
Student's fashion illustration
Student's fashion illustration
Student's character design, an animated character
Student's character design, an animated character
Apr 26, 2021

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Meals given at SMB Fatimah Jinnah Gov Girls School
Meals given at SMB Fatimah Jinnah Gov Girls School

Our last update for you in December featured our caretaking staff which works tirelessly to provide delicious and nutritious meals to our students. Since then, the schools reopened in January and the students from both schools, once again arrived to receive their breakfast meals. During the cold weather in the beginning of this quarter, students continued to receive the same menu as the last quarter however, as the weather changed in these months, our breakfast menu was modified to befit the warmer spring season.

The menu included milk with boiled eggs, porridge, mashed potatoes and bananas. Students attended school in staggered slots of 50% attendance, with one group of students arriving on one day and the second group on the next day. This protocol required that students remain in their classroom for their meals, as opposed to sitting together in our Breakfast Room, which took longer to serve them the meals, but was similar to the COVID 19 safety protocols followed last year.

April, unfortunately, saw the closures of schools once again due to the third COVID 19 wave, at this time, here’s what parents had to say about the impact of the Breakfast Program and school on their lives and their children. Waseem, the father of Afsara – a KG 2 student enrolled at SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School said “We feel very secure and satisfied by the Program. It makes my daughter so happy that when she comes home, she makes us happy.” He added that the school was providing an important platform for the two of his daughters that are enrolled there and he is hoping that his third can also go there as she enjoys biking and activities like sports which are promoted at the school.

“It’s a relief and comfort to me that my daughter gets breakfast at school.” says Nisa, the mother of Wahiba, another student from KG 2 at SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School. She adds that when Wahiba comes home, she tells her mother what she eats in school in the Breakfast Program and asks that she may make it for her at home. Zaib Un Nisa said that she makes it a point to go to school and ask how the breakfast meals are made, so that she can replicate them for her daughter at home as well.

Students miss school and long to once again wake up eagerly, bursting with energy to look forward to the rest of the day. The parents are also looking forward to a healthy return to schools for their children, so that their daughters can continue to thrive in the ever nurturing environment in the school, which is achieved in part through the Breakfast Program.

A student at SMB enjoys a breakfast meal at school
A student at SMB enjoys a breakfast meal at school
 
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