Strings for a cause

The PECHS Girls School organized a music concert featuring the Strings, to raise money for TRC.


Sabeen Mahmud March 12, 2011

KARACHI:


On March 5, the PECHS Girls School (PGS) organized a music concert featuring the Strings, to raise money for the Teachers’ Resource Centre (TRC).  TRC has been working closely with the school for several years on a range of initiatives; from introducing the “Plan-Do-Review” approach in early years classrooms, to revamping child-unfriendly systems of testing and grading.


TRC’s flagship product is ‘The Pehla Taleemi Basta’, a folding cloth bag for the pre-primary classroom, filled with ready-to-use learning materials and teaching aids, including pictures, basic scientific equipment, beads and threading cards. The kit comes with a teacher’s guide, that provides suggestions on using the material for initial literacy, numeracy and science activities. The ‘basta’ empowers teachers, with little or no training, to create an active learning environment in ‘katchi’ classrooms. Revamped with new materials in 2010, the ‘Pehla Taleemi Basta’ is currently in use in over 4,000 government schools across Pakistan.

Some of the PGS teachers have seen the ‘Pehla Taleemi Basta’ in action and thought it would be a great idea to raise some funds to purchase ‘bastas’ for government schools in their area. A flurry of activity ensued; the Strings manager was contacted, rates were negotiated, a date was set, and students were co-opted to design posters, decorate the stage, and sell tickets. Money was also raised to purchase tickets for 50 government school children. The days leading up to the concert were fraught with tension but the excitement outweighed the stress.

On March 5 morning, by 9:30 am, over 600 students, from tiny children to teenagers were jam-packed into the basketball court, restlessly waiting for Bilal Maqsood and Faisal Kapadia. The anticipation was palpable, and every 5 minutes or so, the students would let out a loud roar and would chant for the Strings to come up on stage.

In celebration of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Centennial Year, the proceedings began with a student’s rendition of “Bahar Aaee” and “Mujh Se Pehli Si Muhabbat Meray Mehboob Na Maang”, accompanied by the school’s classical music teachers, Ustad Akhtar Hussain, Hasan Nawaz, and Gul Muhammad. At 10:10 am, after three countdowns, Strings finally appeared — the crowd went nuts. 600 girls and dozens of teachers jumped up and down and screamed themselves hoarse. The band performed all their hits; “Sar Kiye Ye Pahar”, “Duur”, “Zinda Hoon”, “Dhaani”, “Sohniyae”,  “Sonay Do”, and their newer numbers. Faisal Kapadia had incredible stage presence and the crowd was a pawn in his hands — he got them to sing along, to dance, to jump and to sit down, whatever he said, they were willing to do. He even told them to upload their photographs on the band’s Facebook page. After the show, chaos reigned supreme as the girls embarked on a mission to acquire autographs and to have their photographs taken with the band members. The atmosphere was electrifying and everyone was just so happy and carefree - 90 minutes of pure, unadulterated fun.

After paying the bills, the PECHS Girls School managed to raise money for 60 ‘Pehla Taleema Bastas’. In collaboration with TRC, they aim to get groups of students involved with the schools that will receive the Bastas, so that they can share experiences and knowledge and get to know young people outside their comfort zone. The teachers who spearheaded the effort were thrilled that the concert went off smoothly and that everyone had a great time. They’ve learned a lot through this fundraising initiative and are now looking forward to the next step — getting the ‘Pehla Taleemi Basta’ into the hands of children, and working with TRC to create magic in public-sector classrooms.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 13th, 2011.

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