Village school kids spread message of tolerance

Islamabad: On an invitation extended by the Islamabad chapter of East-West Centre Association, the students of 'House of Light,' a village school located at a 45-minute drive from Islamabad on way to Simli Dam, visited gallery 6 to view its inaugural show '66 Statements.' As many as 20 students of class five visited the gallery with their art teacher and principal. All of them appeared to have an eye for art. They paid close attention to all the artwork, whether painting, drawing, print, photograph or sculpture. They discussed the imagery of the paintings in relation to their personal observations. Their eyes beamed with excitement and they surprised not only the gallery staff but also their accompanying teacher with their intelligent comments. It seemed as if they were regular visitors to art galleries. "Look how much this mother loves her child," commented a girl viewing a painting by Ali Abbas. A boy observing the transparent paintings of Masood A. Khan asked his fellow students: "Isn't it like the message on our classroom wall 'Learn to see what is hidden from eyes.' They not only loved the sculpture by Nusrat Mangi, in which a man is washing a cow in a pond, but also admired the symbolic work of Jamil Baloch. In a chorus, the students read out 'Ayatul Kursi,' which was aesthetically painted in the works of Arif Khan. It was not only astonishing to see their involvement in art, but also in the message of each painting and the technique behind it. Some were impressed with the pointillism technique used by an Australian aboriginal painter, while others discussed the mixed media of Musarrat Nahid Imam. During the walk-through, the students started discussing about experimenting different techniques themselves. On completion of the round, when the curator of gallery 6 Dr. Arjumand Faisel asked them whether they could guess how many artworks were on display, the response was '85,' which came in a chorus, indicating their sharp observation as the last art work was numbered 85. At that point, a girl student from the House of Light shared the objectives of the school with the audience, prominent among them being NCA teacher Aqeel Solangi and his students. "For our school, the secret of success of a nation lies in social harmony and the secret to social harmony lies in tolerance. The children of our school will grow up to face the challenge of establishing a tolerant, just and ethical society in which Pakistanis of all colours and creeds are free to practice their customs and religious beliefs and yet feel they belong to one nation that believes in democracy and in scientific and social progress-a nation where the welfare of the people is paramount," she said with confidence, spell-binding the audience. The students also presented national songs, a dance, and the poetry of Allama Iqbal. As a token of appreciation of their interest in art, well-disciplined attitude, intelligence and high aims projecting tolerance and harmony, the EWCA chapter leader presented each one of them with a gift hamper. The students were overjoyed to see paint boxes, room decoration stickers, classroom accessories, chocolates and chips as their gifts. Saadia Qaiser, the principal of the school, its art teacher Shahla Rafi, and Raja Qaiser, the man behind the initiative, thanked the gallery and EWCA for providing such exposure to children from under-privileged communities. These students come from families who cannot even afford to send them to government schools. Located in Pind Bhegwal, the House of Light was established in 2006 for children from very underprivileged communities by a dedicated group of people under Horizon International Trust. It started with pre-class one and currently has 150 students up to class five. A few weeks from now, class six will start in a tent. School uniforms, books, materials and even pick and drop from homes is provided free of cost to every child and no fee is charged for tuition and other services. Previously, meals were also provided but have been stopped due to shortage of funds. Horizontal International Trust has managed to raise donations for land, but is making efforts to raise an endowment fund for expansion of the classes. People wishing to support the effort can deposit their donations in favour of the trust, account no. 01-6450652-01, Standard Chartered Bank, Saudi-Park Tower branch. Interested people may also personally visit the school or contact Raja Qaiser by dialling (0300 8503359).

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