Tulika Bhatija, a peace educator and teacher of Ecole Mondiale World School (Mumbai, India) shares how their school responded to the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park tragedy in Lahore:
“The teachers of Ecole Mondiale World School created an empathetic writing task as an extension to the activity where students sent greetings of solidarity to children of Ghauri Wisdom School, Lahore. As part of their unit in English, they are reading a novel about survival. This activity helped students empathise with their friends across borders and understand what survival means to children in Pakistan now? With relentless attempts to target schools and parks – spaces where children learn and play, the extremists are systematically targeting the future of the nation. Students not only explored different meanings of survival but also suggested a way forward for Pakistani children to counter extremism in all forms. Some students wrote a reflection, while others creatively wrote a piece from the perspective of a Pakistani child affected by the Lahore blast.”
She shares reflection of a student of Grade 7 who wrote about Gulsha-e-Iqbal Blast and the aftermath in terms of the effect on the people and especially children, from the perspective of a Pakistani child. The student wrote under the name of Ali Raizad.
When I thought of survival, I always imagined a person in the wilderness; alone, hunting, getting food, water, shelter, building fires etc. To, some others, survival is getting through school with good grades, graduating with top marks and attending a university in America or UK. To unlucky few, it means living another day. To a very fortunate few, it means getting a new toy every day. I wish I could share their pleasure & ease…
Ever since the Peshawar attack and the Gulshan-e-Iqbal blast, my idea of survival has totally changed. To me & my friends, survival means coming back home from school, alive than well. For some reasons, Ma always give me a rib-squeezing hug when I leave & come back. I can’t blame her, really. She doesn’t care about my homework anymore.
At school, everyone is very unusually subdued. My friends dont talk to each other. There is no laughter or joy. During class, instead of throwing paper-planes & shouting, like we usually do, we daydream and stare out of the window. Our teachers are also very uneasy. Ms. Preeti keeps looking out of the window between lectures, and Deepak sir does not give us how. After school, the bus takes me home & I hug my best friend and wish that I will see him again tomorrow.
When I enter the building, the watchmen are alert and disciplined. When I finally reach home and ring the bell, I hear Ma praying to Allah to keep me safe from harm. When she opens the door, cue the rib-squeezing hug and kiss. I then finish all my homework. I beg Ma to come with me to the park. After a lot of drama, we go to the new park in town. On the way, we see the ruins of what once was the Gulshan-e-Iqbal park.
It’s funny how fast things can change. Where there was once a bright, happy place, filled with laughter of ‘innocent children’, now lies a dark, unhappy one which strikes fear into everyone. When we reached the new park, I suddenly can’t play anymore I remember the bodies strewn across the ruins. People running to get help & I start feeling sick. I tell Ma that I don’t want to play anymore & we go back home. I hear, that they are going to be very strict about the security henceforth. Like anyone’s heard of a park with metal detectors & security checks. Ma sighs & says that its the only way until terrorists go away. I never want to visit a park again. And its all the terrorist’s fault.
They have killed innocent children. They have injured millions. Because of them people are suffering. They must pay. Ma thinks they target children to divide the country & turn us against each other…oh…and to make us fear them. I think they are wrong. Their is always that one able sibling who irritates the younger one, but always defends him from the external rift. This has not divided us but has brought us closer as a nation.
I think that we must stay strong. We must show the terrorists, that we are not scared of them and that they can’t control us…NO MATTER WHAT WE WILL STAY TOGETHER AS A TEAM & SOMEDAY, WE WILL DEFEAT THEM.
– Ali Raizad