How the LUMS Community Service Society is “Bridging Barriers”
Many barriers exist within our society, many of which we ourselves are hesitant to break. The LUMS Community Service Society is taking an initiative to change this, an effort which we must commend.
Bridging Barriers is a project by the LUMS Community Service Society that engages with students of different NGOs (TCF, Care, Rabtt, PEN). Their project is an attempt, however small it maybe, to “bridge” the learning gap between privileged and underprivileged students in terms of their education and skills. What they do is an exercise that seems quite simple, but in fact requires a great deal of commitment and responsibility.
Every Saturday, the Bridging Barriers team goes to 6 different NGO/semi-government schools, where they teach 7th grade students how to think critically, speak effectively in front of audiences, know the governance system of their country and the history that is concealed from their text books as well as history that is international, and hence absent from their Pakistan Studies text books, which are their only source of historical information.
Students are also made to engage with topics revolving around pertinent and often taboo social issues, and to keep things relevant to their context, a bit of literature is involved, Punjabi poetic literature to be exact. This is so the students are made aware of the reality behind age old, and many a times, convoluted traditions around shrines and Sufis. This year the Bridging Barriers team even conducted a mental and neurological health awareness campaign in their schools, on 12th February, that is World Epilepsy Day.
It may seem as if disseminating such loaded information to children this young may be an exercise in futility, but the Bridging Barriers team argues otherwise. “The children are at an age where they are neither too young, nor too old, so they grasp and hold on to what is taught quite well”, they tell us. They argue that because each teaching session is planned carefully, pictures and videos are often employed and revision quizzes take place too, the students are able to hold on to quite a lot of what is said. Additionally, the students are also provided with a printed copy of the syllabus so that they are able to revise the lectures at home. But perhaps, the biggest incentive of all, the team tells us, is the Bridging Barriers Olympiad.
The Olympiad is a 2 day (previously 1 day) event held in LUMS. Here these students are brought and awarded the opportunity to compete against each other in the fields that they were trained for, but also in fields that they are either naturally talented in, or have skills harnessed through their regular schooling. This event involves competitions in the fields of sports, music, debates, arts, writing, law and dramatics. It has been happening for 5 years now.
This is a small hand extended from the privileged to those devoid of it, but it is a hand extended nonetheless. We must learn from these groups of LUMS students, for they are doing what we all should do; a small change is being made, and if we take up more of such initiatives, we may just be able to stir a great transformation in the schooling of children who do not hold the privilege many of us take for granted.