Aaghaz-e-Dosti connected classrooms of Bulandshahr (UP, India) and Lahore and Karachi (Pakistan)
‘Do you study that Earth is flat?’, was the question of a class IX student of Pardada Pardadi Inter College (Bulandshehar, U.P.) when the students got an opportunity to talk with their counterparts in Pakistan during the classroom to classroom connect program of Aaghaz-e-Dosti. Aaghaz-e-Dosti Karachi coordinator, Suraya Islam asked students there in Pakistan, ‘What is the shape of Earth?’ to which students replied together, ‘Gol hai’ (Earth is round).
Similarly a student from Karachi asked ‘Why do people eat neem leaf before playing holi?’ The students in bulandshahr cleared that this is not true. There is no such practice.
These and many such misconceptions still exist on both sides of border. These stereotypes have been built gradually over a period of 68 years since existence of independent India and Pakistan. Through classroom to classroom connect program of Aaghaz-e-Dosti, students from both sides get opportunity to talk each other on the various issues of culture and they also talk about such doubts and stereotypes to clear.
In its series of educating for peace, Aaghaz-e-Dosti , an Indo-Pak Friendship initiative has been working with schools on both sides of border. It organizes various peace workshops, amanchaupals (peace sessions), letter and card exchange programs in addition to classroom to classroom connect. In its series of classroom to classroom connect, Aaghaz-e-Dosti held two sessions in Pardada Pardadi Inter College of Bulandshehar, U.P. and connected students with a Ghauri Wisdom high school in Lahore and students of SMB Fatima Jinnah School in Karachi on 26 May. Another event of ‘Painting for Peace’ was also organized where more than 30 students made drawings on Indo-Pak Peace and Friendship. The first session between Bulandshahr and Lahore students was coordinated by Kashif Nawab and the session with Karachi students by Suraya Islam. The bulandshahr sessions were coordinated by Ravi Nitesh and Devika Mittal.
During classroom to classroom connect program, more than 100 students joined the session. Before start of program, students in Bulandshahr were clueless about how students in Pakistan look like and how they talk. This was also true for their Pakistani counterparts. They both were curious to know about each other. When they got connected, they talked on various topics ranging from festivals to fashion, film and food. They became so happy and even started singing songs for each other. In one session, students from Indian side sung a nazm for students in Pakistan and in reply, students in Pakistan (Karachi) sung a bhajan for students in India. Students on both side sung many bollywood songs together.
Another session of classroom to classroom connect (between bulandshahr school and Lahore school) ended with singing national anthem of their country by students of both sides and both sides of students stood firm with respect in both anthem. The Lahore school also said a prayer on Indo-Pak peace wherein students of Bulanshahr school also participated.
At the end students were so happy and invited each other to their home. They all were like ‘we did not know that we are same’. Another student was surprised to have such an experience and told ‘if they (Pakistani students) come in our class, no one can identify that they are not from India’.
With classroom to classroom sessions, Aaghaz-e-Dosti is trying to utilized ICT as a tool for Peace. Aaghaz-e-Dosti believes that with such connections, students will get an opportunity and encouragement to ‘know’ about each other and it will break barrier of misunderstanding. More we will provide such chances to meet each other, more emotions for peace will travel.
As, in its sustainable development goals, United Nations announced to strengthen works on Peace and the reason that development can not be inclusive without peace , Aaghaz-e-Dosti is doing efforts through all ways to include people in peacebuilding and to invite people to play a role in peace. Till now, Aaghaz-e-Dosti has provided peace education to more than 5000 students through its peace sessions.
We have seen several decades of hatred, of war, but now, we need to understand and move together. We also admire efforts of both sides of governments who are in talk despite all odds. We feel that the objectives of both sides of democracy is to bring peace in region and through its efforts, Aaghaz-e-Dosti is trying to involve people in achieving this objective.