KARACHI: “We don’t feel like we are away from home,” said nine-grader Tahani Lenagalia.
“Yeah, the people are so friendly and the food is so good, too,” chipped in her classmate, Harithi Nandasena.
Six girls have come from the Ladies College, Colombo, to the CAS School as part of the Nelson Mandela Peace Fellowship programme. Each year, class nine students from Sri Lanka come to CAS School. Students from the school accommodate the visiting students, with their families serving as hosts.
On September 28, six girls came to stay with different host families. Their teacher, Ms Kaanthie de Silva, has also come with them and is staying with a CAS schoolteacher. All of them will go back to Sri Lanka on October 5.
“The food here is spicy and different,” said de Silva, while speaking to The Express Tribune. She was particularly inspired by the vibrant colours of the women’s clothes here. “This country is very colourful,” she said. “From clothes to vehicles, I see a variety of colours which I don’t find like this back home. Even the garbage trucks in Karachi are so beautifully decorated.”
The children were also quite fascinated by the art on wheels. “The lorries and the buses are so beautiful with colours, such as red, orange, green, etc,” said Shanya Sadanandan.
When asked what they liked best in Pakistan, the children shared an unusual fascination. “Camels,” said Sadanandan without a thought. Her friends agreed.
“We were travelling that day when suddenly a camel came in our way and we were all so excited,” she said. “Now, every day we go out we wish that we see the camel again as we don’t have any camels in Sri Lanka.”
The students seemed to be enjoying a lot. “The culture here is not similar but it’s easy to adjust to,” said Sadanandan. “You know, we have a Muslim community in Sri Lanka as well so we know a bit about it. We really enjoy seeing the sacrificial animals here.”
The girls were very happy with the extracurricular activities of the CAS School. “We don’t have a photography module at Ladies College and it’s really exciting to see it here,” said Lenagalia. “I would surely come to this school if I visit Pakistan again,” said Suashi Tissaaratchy.
All six girls are going to a school here. “At home, we get up at 5 in the morning for school,” said Sadanandan. “Here, it’s so nice to wake up with the sun out.”
Replying to a question on the places they are eager to see during their visit, the teacher and the children counted historical places, such as mosques, Mohatta Palace, and Sunday Bazaar on their list.
South Asian harmony
While many people like to talk about harmony and relations between Pakistan and other South Asian countries, CAS School teacher Maha Jafarey has taken some practical steps. “The CAS students who are hosting these exchange students will go to Sri Lanka in February,” she said. “Since Ladies College is a girls’ school, I’m looking for another school to send the male students of CAS to.”
She said that she believes that such exchange programmes help promote harmony and an exchange of cultural values. “If these girls were staying at a hotel, they would have never gotten to know as much,” said Jafarey. “Staying with a host family is more of an experience as there is nothing like meeting people.”
Speaking about the programme, she said that she has focused on class nine. This is because after class nine, children become busy preparing for their O’ level exams, she said.
“This is the third exchange programme with Sri Lanka,” said Jafarey. “Also, I have had a two-way exchange programme with an Indian school and I took my students to one in Bangladesh as well. Soon, we will have students from Bangladesh here.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2014.