Students,of 35 low-cost private schools to attend painting competition

Karachi:February 27:The spacious office of non-profit Orangi Pilot Project was humming with art activity this past week with scores of schoolchildren either working on various art projects, huddled around tables filling in colouring books or simply walking around admiring the work of their peers adorning the walls.
The students, belonging to some 35 low-cost private schools of the locality, were visiting the OPP office along with teachers to attend an art exhibition and painting competition organised by the organisation under its small schools support programme.

Orangi Town, which was named the world’s largest slum in the United Nations World Cities Report 2016, is a low-income settlement of roughly 2.2 million people, but there are only 64 state-run schools serving the area which houses roughly 10 per cent of Karachi’s population, said OPP Director Aquila Ismail while speaking to The News.

She said OPP has introduced art education in some 35 low-cost schools of Orangi to encourage creative, artistic and critical thinking in its school-going children, who have grown up watching their neighbourhood be labelled poor and a slum.

OPP, which has been working in Orangi since the 1980s on sanitation and infrastructure upgrade, also runs a small schools support programme to upgrade the conditions of local private schools which offer education to children at nominal fees. Under this programme, OPP paired with another non-profit Vasl Artists’ Association last year to introduce art education in these schools. To date, the group has trained around 50 teachers of various low-cost private schools running in Orangi for this purpose.

“We believe that schools should include art education in their curriculum, especially at the primary level, because art inspires creativity and is also a way for children to express their emotions,” said Aquila, who is the elder sister of OPP founder Perween Rehman, who was assassinated in 2013.

According to her, the programme teaches students and teachers how to think creatively, to look at the environment and express it through painting and other crafts.

OPP is also focused on improving the academic standards of private schools in Orangi and five other peripheral towns of Karachi, including Baldia, Keamari, Mauripur, Gadap, and SITE Town, she said.

Speaking about education in Orangi, Aquila said the locality with more than 2 million people has only 64 government schools, while more than 600 low-cost private schools which charge anywhere from Rs50 to Rs200 in monthly fees are also functioning there.

But these private schools don’t have qualified teachers, most of whom are just educated till matric or intermediate, therefore, they need crucial assistance in the form of teacher trainings, she said, adding that low-cost schools have no means to provide such trainings.

“The children of Orangi are no less talented than the children of other towns,” she said. “But, their schools don’t have the capacity to improve infrastructure or provide extracurricular trainings.”

Aquila said that the proliferation of low-cost private schools in Orangi is the locality’s response to the failure of the government to provide education in poor communities.

Speaking about OPP’s educational programming, she said they provide teachers’ trainings in math, science, languages, art and gardening using recycled water, so they can teach these skills effectively in the classrooms.

“Our art education programme has brought the children and teachers of various schools together to interact and learn from each other,” she said, referring to the exhibition, which, she said, was a celebration of the works created by students and teachers of low-cost private schools over the past year.

She added that the new art education session will begin from March and she was hoping to bring more schools in its fold in the coming sessions.The news.