Eight bedcovers, six floor cushions, four pillow covers, over fifty mats and a handful of paper bags and table cloths were spread across the floor of Gallery 6 on Wednesday. The household items, all up for sale, were prepared by students of the Pehli Kiran School System (PKSS).
The exhibition, titled “Ao Rang Bharain - An Exhibition”, aimed to give visitors a glimpse of what these children are taught and the operations of the Jamshed Akhtar Qureshi (JAQ) Education Trust, which runs the schools, said a press statement. The proceeds from the sale will go to the trust. The household items were prepared during “Saturdays of Fun”, a regular event organised by the trust to let the children explore their creative side with volunteers from all over the city.
While one would expect random scribbles from young children, the exhibition actually came as a pleasant surprise, with the paintwork portraying honest, artistic and somewhat quirky pieces.
The bed covers, at Rs3,000 a piece, were the most expensive items at the exhibit. But considering the fact that each bed cover was a one-of-a-kind piece with colourful artwork painted by the children, the asking price seemed reasonable.
Some of the bed sheets (all washable) on display were hand prints in the form of a peace emblem, tall buildings with cars honking underneath, a scenic view of a house with a driveway on which a snazzy car is whizzing by.
The finishing of the products was done by girls from one of the communities of the PKSS, who have been receiving vocational training from the trust over the past year, said the press statement. The girls helped make marketable products from the fabric by adding stitches, borders and sometimes a splash of paint.
“These have all been painted by the children during their summer activities. We had volunteers guiding them, but the work is all their own,” said Madeeha Ansari, a trust representative who organised the volunteer programme.
A short video featuring scenes from the schools classes and extracurricular activities was also playing on loop to let visitors know what the schools do.
The Pehli Kiran School System consists of eight non-formal schools in the urban slums of Islamabad. The schools are unique in that they cater to children from nomadic communities belonging to the lowest income bracket, who do not have access to basic educational opportunities, according to the trust. Using low-cost, simple infrastructure, the focus is on providing basic literacy, numeracy and useful skills, gently directing the children towards mainstream schools after grade five.
The school system is also registered with the Federal Board of Education.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 16th, 2012.