KARACHI: At the end of the academic year, students usually have to cram all their notes and then sit for grueling exams. The students at the Special Children’s Educational Institute have a more action-packed and fun way to put a full stop to their year-long physiotherapy and physical education classes: a day full of novelty races.
Around 40 children with cognitive disabilities participated in the institute’s annual sports day organised on Friday morning, putting up a remarkable display of teamwork and sportsmanship. The novelty races were enjoyed by parents and students alike – especially the one where the children had to race towards their backpacks and lunchboxes, put the boxes inside their bags and then dash back to the starting line.
Former Pakistani cricketer Wasim Bari was the chief guest and presented trophies as well as gifts to almost all children, regardless of which position they had finished in. “Every child is a winner and should be recognised and applauded for their achievements,” said Bari. “This would be a gesture of encouraging and supporting them.”
The institute’s founder, Saima Haq, a graduate in education psychology from University of California, Berkeley, explained that the sports day is held annually to mark the end of the year-long physiotherapy and the physical education programmes. It is a way for the children to showcase what they have learnt from the two programmes over the academic year. “As a full-fledged school, we make sure that our students are given the same if not better opportunities that all educational institutions offer and sports day is an integral part of every school’s curriculum,” said Haq.
Shehneela Wasim, a physiotherapist associated with the institute, told The Express Tribune that the practice for sports day started two months ago. Students were taken out onto the field every day so that they could get used to exerting themselves physically. “We do this so that on sports day, children with moderate disabilities feel as if they are following their regular routines. Students with mild disabilities, on the other hand, understand what the event is about and get extremely excited.”
Joyce Ilyas, who has been a trainer at the institute for the last 11 years, said that sports day marks the end of a year-long physiotherapy programme. Likewise, another programme which focuses on strengthening the neural pathways and building up the confidence through music and movement, leads to a concert for the students’ families.
Another trainer at the school, Zainab Rana, interrupted the conversation to explain that not every programme and learning activity suits every student, just like their counterparts at regular schools enjoy certain subjects over others. Each trainer was designated to a maximum of three children, making sure that their needs are being accommodated every step of the way and led them through a course customised according to their individual needs.
“All of our students have some degree of cognitive disability, which is then classified as mild, moderate or severe under different conditions,” said Rana. “Even 10 to 15 per cent improvement is considered significant in cases of moderate or severe cognitive disability and this happens only after several years of hard work put in by trainers and parents, she added.
“At SCEI, we want our students to be treated as children first and not be marginalised because they have special needs. Therefore it is important to showcase and highlight those events that show these children as any other member of society.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2013.