Who would have guessed that just one email would lead to such a productive and beautiful link between two neighbouring countries that have had a conflicted relationship since their birth?
When Shankar Musafir, Manager, Education Empowerment - Millennium Education for Sustainable Development Programme sent this joint project idea to us, we at Sanjan Nagar Public Education Trust Higher Secondary School warmly welcomed it. And so began our second successful exchange program between India and Pakistan (we had previously partnered with Bluebells International School, New Delhi).
The initial name, Indo-Pak Independence Day Project, was changed to Indo-Pak Peace Project Through Education at the suggestion of Baela Raza Jamil, Managing Trustee of Sanjan Nagar, as this more fully represented our optimism about a sustainable project to promote learning, sharing and peace.
Our first exchange, due to take place Aug 11-18, 2010 could not happen because of difficulties in obtaining visas. The first exchange visit from Pakistan finally took place Aug 31-Sep 4, when Sanjan Nagar School principal Faiza Shahrukh along with six students from class 8 to 11 and two teachers crossed Wagah Border (Attari in India) on foot. They were warmly received by the Principal of The Millennium School (TMS) Amritsar, Shyamal Dey and his team.
The group spent the next three days at The Millenium School in Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi. The welcome ceremony in Amritsar and Noida was tagged with the titles "Zara Yad Karo Qurbani" and "Umeed" respectively. Cultural events were held, incorporating hope for Indo- Pak friendship with music, dance, drama and a lively interaction. The visit was most productive, with workshops by World Comics India, Pravah (a Delhi based NGO that focuses on social justice through youth action), Prof. Anil Sethi (Head History Department at National Council of Educational Research and Training, NCERT), Prof. Krishna Kumar (Former Director, NCERT) and "Education for Sustainable Development" workshop with Shankar Musafir.
"We are trying hard to establish a Joint Knowledge Production Forum between the two nations so that students get to interact and work with each other," says Baela Raza Jamil. "That would also reduce the long standing differences among the future generations."
"We have requested both the Indian and Pakistani governments to support our initiative. The Indian visa regime must be made simpler so that more Pakistani students get a chance to explore the country," she adds.
The Pakistani school children's visit was covered by several channels and newspapers after a press conference.
"There was not much of a difference among children of the two nations. Nobody can spread the message of love and brotherhood better than children," comments Faiza Shahrukh. "When we sit together we can understand each other better and bridge the gap created by politicians."
Students, scholars and educators from both countries stressed the need for a greater student- teacher exchange. The first group from TMS has received Pakistani visas and is very excited about visiting Pakistan later this month.
"Through this programme we have started thinking more positively towards education," says Reeta Kaul, Principal, The Millennium School Noida
Other project activities include interviews of scholars, researchers and freedom fighters, blog, email and other online interaction, activities and workshops on Education for Sustainable Development.
The Pakistani students' and teachers' visit was made even more meaningful with visits to various cities, interaction with students, teachers and scholars, and specially arranged iftar parties. The first visit came to an end with the beginning of exchange of friendship bands, gifts, beautiful memories, knowledge, peace and love.
We now look forward to hosting our Indian guests.
- The writer is Project Coordinator, Sanjan Nagar Public Education Trust Higher Secondary School, Lahore. Email email@example.com
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
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