Jan 15, 2021

Art in the time of COVID 19

A winning submission - competition on Child Rights
A winning submission - competition on Child Rights

Since our last update, the COVID 19 pandemic has continued to make life uncertain for the children in our adopted government girls schools of SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School (SMB) and Khatoon-e-Pakistan (KPS). October saw a reopening of schools with strict safety precautions in place - fifteen students were allowed to attend their art classes at a time with the freedom of using different mediums to create their artworks, to limit sharing implements. November was a tough reminder that we are not out of the woods yet as the lockdown was imposed and children were back at home once again creating their art as best they could with the material available. Despite the uncertainty students adapted to the challenges presented this time and were able to produce amazing work, even competing in multiple art competitions.

Art Competitions

Our students participated in a competition on Child Rights and Child Justice organized by Group Development Pakistan. Prior to this, students attended an online workshop in which they were introduced to the concept of child rights and the intent of the competition. Guided in person by their teachers (as by now schools had reopened), they sent in some very moving submissions, the best of which were selected to be showcased in Child Courts being established in Karachi. A student from KPS won 3rd place for her artwork in another competition on ‘Fighting Corruption for a Better Future’ organized by the Government of Sindh. Two students acquired a winning position in yet another art competition at the Art Council on tackling plastic pollution. Most recently, students are participating in an inter school art competition by the Korangi Academy, creating art on topics like ‘women empowerment’ and ‘your contribution to the development of Karachi.’

Learning Art not just for Art’s sake

The children weren’t the only art students at this time. In the most recent school shutdown starting November, students were away but government teachers frequented the schools to conduct online classes and check students’ homework. A group of government teachers from the SMB Government Girls School took the initiative to approach teachers from the art program to better their own art skills and help them teach different subjects in a holistic manner. The teachers – mostly from Kindergarten classes and the first grade – attend weekly workshops with an art teacher, seeking to learn art activities which would support their teaching of core subjects like Science and the languages better. Additionally, they also learned artistic techniques like shadow drawing to better their own skills.

Other Art Activities

            At home, students used what they could find around the house, and created interesting pieces of craft with the direction of their art teachers. A simple element which was seasonal, inexpensive and widely available was wool. Students used wool to make cute winter chicks, yarn hats and the more advanced grade 8 students made wool clutches/wallets. Paper was considered for many activities apart from sketching and drawing, Grade 7 students used paper to create a model for a room, watches, rings and even a cake. Young students also repurposed buttons as pieces to contribute to their art work about nature.

Whereas at home, art became a way to stay occupied and be expressive and creative indoors, with schools remaining open in October, children were able to come to school and were given many activities which would enhance their learning including lessons in Life Skills based Education.

Workshop by Group Development Pakistan
Workshop by Group Development Pakistan
Another wining piece - Child Rights Competition
Another wining piece - Child Rights Competition
For art competition on tackling plastic pollution
For art competition on tackling plastic pollution
On the theme of women empowerment
On the theme of women empowerment
Government teachers attend art workshop
Government teachers attend art workshop
Students working in Art class in October at KPS
Students working in Art class in October at KPS
Button Activity by Grade 4
Button Activity by Grade 4
Life Skills based Education for Grade 2 students
Life Skills based Education for Grade 2 students
Model room in papercraft - by Grade 7
Model room in papercraft - by Grade 7
Woolen wallet made by Grade 7 student
Woolen wallet made by Grade 7 student
Dec 28, 2020

Our Caretakers in the New Normal

Caretaker staff working hard to continue with SOPs
Caretaker staff working hard to continue with SOPs

“The children come and tell me they miss coming to school and breakfast meals, and I miss feeding them.” Jamna.

You may remember Jamna from our last email about her, her daughter and the impact of the essential food packages we had distributed. A staple of the breakfast program at the Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government Girls School (KPS), Jamna has been here for three years. Since the recent lockdown, government regulations have been followed and only a few children come to school, sometimes, to get their work checked by the teachers. This is the limited interaction that Jamna gets with the children now.

Prior to the recent lockdown, in the month of October, the breakfast program was renewed with the 317 young children in the program from Khatoon-e-Pakistan Government Girls School (KPS) and SMB Fatima Jinnah Government Girls School (SMB). At this time in KPS, as per the Standard Operating Procedures, the children were allocated to multiple classrooms to ensure that they would not be in contact, whereas normally they would get together to enjoy their breakfast in the breakfast room.

The students were distributed, as the second graders used the breakfast room, the Kindergarten students and first graders remained in their own classrooms (nursery students who would normally also partake in the program were unable to this school year, as due to the pandemic, no new enrollments took place). To adapt to this major change, the menu was changed so that it could be delivered to classrooms more easily and to reduce the chances for spill over. Jamna had extra help and made the added effort needed to ensure that the children would all get their breakfasts at the same time.

She expressed her disappointment at not being able to feed the younger children as she normally had to feed the nursery and kindergarten students and had become very attached to them. “Children are willing to eat everything with me” Jamna remarked when asked if there was anything in particular the children did not like eating. Most children however, she found, liked egg and chappati as well as alloo ka paratha and fruit chaat but were not as keen on channa chaat. As winter approached in October, the breakfast menu replaced fruit chaat with a helping of mashed potatoes.

“I’ve been here for more than 10 years and these children feel like my own now that mine have grown up.” Abida.

A huge part of the breakfast program in SMB Fatima Jinnah Girls School is Abida. Here, the breakfast program in October, catered to around 130 students from the KG2 grade level. Ordinarily this program would include children enrolled in the KG1 classes however due to the onset of the pandemic, enrollment has been suspended.

Prior to the pandemic, two to three sections of the classes would attend the breakfast room at a time for their breakfast meals, in October however, half of the children came on alternative days so there were fewer children on a given day and two were seated per table. Additionally, as Abida noted, cleanliness and distancing became a major concern, as the children remained in their classrooms for their meals, the teachers ensured that the classroom remained clean and Abida, along with Rubina (another member of the kitchen caretaking staff) cleaned the utensils to maintain COVID 19 prevention.

Although Abida had her own apprehensions about the risk of exposure her work posed, she maintained that children were innocent and fragile – they needed care and direction, it was necessary to be present for them and show them the importance of handwashing and masks. She also noted the importance of the breakfast program and the enthusiasm the children had to come back to school.

Jamna - valued member of caretaker staff in KPS
Jamna - valued member of caretaker staff in KPS
Abida - seasoned member of caretaker staff at SMB
Abida - seasoned member of caretaker staff at SMB
Young student enjoying breakfast in October at SMB
Young student enjoying breakfast in October at SMB
Oct 23, 2020

School Away from School and, now, Back to School

smartphone distribution and safe usage orientation
smartphone distribution and safe usage orientation

For the last several months, we have strived to continue school while we were away from school - through distance learning, a host of activities promoting the holistic development of our students and, finally, planning and preparing for safe school reopening. 

Our schools adapted quickly to continuing learning from a distance post-COVID19. We designed, printed and distributed physical Learning Packs to our students' homes, making sure they included activities that fostered independent and active learning, creativity and mindfulness. Some of the exercises for students included home science experiments using garden waste (e.g. to explore how water and nutrients travel through a leaf), art through recycled or kitchen materials (e.g. turmeric and vinegar tie dye) and learning through stories.

Our teachers, guided by their relevant Subject Leads from the Professional Development team, recorded and edited video lessons to share in their Whatsapp Classrooms. These Whatsapp classrooms allowed for asynchronous learning and also featured instruction, Q&A and peer learning through voice notes, texts and photos of assignments. They also helped students feel connected to their school and classmates, which was an important aspect of our School Away From School during a time of isolation.

We distributed smartphones and data packages to all fifth grade students in order to make online learning smooth and accessible for a grade who were able to follow online instruction yet unable to access even Whatsapp at home. Students and parents were called to the school with strict COVID19 prevention protocols (staggered slots, mask compliance and physical distancing) to register, get their phones and attend an orientation/training by the school IT team on how to use their smartphone safely. A total of 1200 students of Grades 6 through 10 were also engaged in Math, English and Science classes twice a week remotely through a blended learning program by the name of Knowledge Platform.

Now more than ever it was clear that education needed to go beyond the basic and traditional. We took our annual Summer Camp online and hosted tens of enriching and empowering talks, and workshops for our students on topics including architecture in nature, entrepreneurship, feminism, activism, environmental consciousness, fitness, yoga, solo female travel and even improv storytellingWe trained our art and sports teachers as Lay Counselors after which 10 of them did phone check-ins with students to ensure their mental health and wellbeing, referring any serious concerns to the School Counselor. We launched Tiflatoona series of original animated children's stories in Urdu for today's Pakistan, aiming to spark curiosity and bring joy in a time of isolation, to students from our schools and beyond.

Finally, we put several heads together to ensure we were prepared for safe school reopening - drafting, consulting on, training staff on and implementing clear Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) for everything from entrance checks to trash disposal and allowed vs disallowed vs adapted student co-curricular activities in art, music, sports, etc. After a phase-wise reopening starting from 9th and 10th grade on September 15th, all our students from Kindergarten to Grade 10 are back in school now, though we are still operatingon a rota system with half the population coming on alternate days. 

We are so pleased that our schools are finally back open for all students, a full seven months after COVID19 hit. Enjoy the following videos highlighting (i) the first day back to school and possibly the biggest school day of 2020, and (ii) students sharing what they missed the most about school.

This continues to be a challenging year for us and we need all your support in raising funds to sustain our project. In addition to making a donation yourself, we would request you to champion our cause to 2-3 friends to make a gift on #GivingTuesday as their last chance to get in their donations before the tax year ends. Donate to Zindagi Trust on Tuesday, December 1st 2020 to help our under-resourced schools win a piece of the million-dollar pie - the more donations people like you make on the day, the more additional funds we will receive from #GivingTuesday. Applicable for all online donations (credit card, debit card, PayPal, ApplePay and GlobalGiving gift cards) made through 1st December 2020 Eastern Time.

Workshop on Child Rights on Zoom
Workshop on Child Rights on Zoom
Workshop with writer Saba Imtiaz
Workshop with writer Saba Imtiaz
Weekly debrief for Lay Counselors
Weekly debrief for Lay Counselors
Temperature checks at the school entrance
Temperature checks at the school entrance
Primary school students watching a Tiflatoon story
Primary school students watching a Tiflatoon story
jumping with joy, masked edition
jumping with joy, masked edition

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