School Outreach Tours (SOT) is an educational initiative launched by CAP connecting schools across Karachi, with students from grade 8th to 12th. Launched in July 2021, SOT looks at Partition through personal narratives, bringing into focus our shared histories, cultures, and heritage sites. Through this project, CAP has been able to connect with over 600 students from Dawood Public School, The Citizens Foundation, Kiran Foundation, and Education Trust Nasra School.

 

As the workshops proceeded on to its second cycle, revisiting the heritage in Pakistan, the students were intrigued to discover the unexplored histories of sites they pass by every day. Fascinated by the material shown in the sessions, students were keen to delve deeper into the architectural and cultural past of various other buildings in their vicinity. Their findings were then discussed in the next cycle – ‘Suitcase of Memories’; a session centered on partition survivors and their vivid recollections of the fears and hopes while migrating.

 

The highlight of SOT’s third cycle was the concluding activity where the participants were asked to draw three objects they would take along if they are asked to leave their homeland in a situation of emergency.

 

Expressing her views on the SOT workshops, Emaan Arif, a student of the Dawood Public School said, “SOT was a great experience. We had sessions regarding heritage, partition stories, and problems right after partition. We listened to audio recordings of survivors who migrated to Pakistan. This really helped us understand the severity of the situation. Not only did it help me academically but it also helped me to understand the past and struggle of my homeland.”

 

The fourth cycle encouraged the young minds to understand partition through literature. Partition literature – now an emerging genre in South Asia literature, helps restore people’s faith in the human spirit, hence, the incorporation of this facet was necessary. Toba Tek Singh, penned by Saadat Hasan Manto and Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh were the two all-encompassing texts selected in order to strengthen the students’ grasp on experiences regarding the social and cultural dilemmas existing in that space and time.

 

The fifth stage of SOT – Global Communities, was all about the collective efforts of our early political leaders to put Pakistan; a newly-borne nation, on the world map. It was not just the tool of diplomacy that they utilized but also cultural instruments such as fashion, sports, education, mirroring how leadership was mindful from the very beginning and knew the significance of this apparatus in building a distinctive cultural identity.

 

Apart from the virtual sessions, the SOT teams arranged meet and greet sessions with the students who have been participating in the project. The teams recorded their testimonies and were glad to know that the students had enjoyed engaging in the SOT cycles.

 

CAP is grateful to all the participating schools for their support and cooperation in their efforts to transform historical narratives through the lens of oral storytelling

 

The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) is a non-profit organization dedicated to cultural and historic preservation, operating in Sindh and Punjab. CAP seek’s to educate communities by fostering an awareness of our nation’s history, and instilling pride in Pakistani citizens about their heritage. CAP has focused its attention on the tradition of oral storytelling in Pakistan, emphasizing the importance of such narratives in a dialogue on national identity. The organization has three main goals: to preserve and provide access to our archive, to build and support educational programs, and to develop educational products based on the testimonies collected.

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Arshad Yousafzai is a Karachi-based journalist covering Education and Human Rights. He can be reached on Twitter @Arshadyousafzay

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