AT the auditorium of Karachi’s National Academy of the Performing Arts on Wednesday, the audience had gathered to enjoy not a professional performance, but one put up by a group of school students — extraordinary, for this venue.
The schools they are from is what made this event worthy of note. On stage were a group of 60 boys and girls from Lyari, an area which is characterised by high levels of poverty, crime and gang warfare, who had attended a six-month course at the MAD [Music, Art, Dance] School Society under a programme called Lyari Stars.
Also read: The stars of Lyari shine on
Here, they learned to act, sing, dance and play music. Wednesday’s performance put on display a considerable amount of talent, for which the students and their teachers deserve commendation.
Yet what underscored the value of the programme was the personal stories of some of the students that had been woven into the piece: tales featuring guns and police chases, about jacking cars and being put into lock-ups, and experiences of ethnic rivalries and fears about safety.
In setting up the programme, the aim of the MAD School and the Karachi Youth Initiative, which provided financial support, had been to open up horizons, and draw upon the power of creative fields to build bridges, promote peace, and foster confidence and ambition. And, indeed, in the view of the students and their parents, the experience had been an uplifting eye-opener.
This method of tackling crime and restlessness has been put into practice in ghettos and slums in many places, and everywhere it has been found that it offers considerable benefits in terms of integration and co-existence.
There is every reason to replicate such an endeavour urgently in Karachi, and in other towns and cities in the country, too.
There are many ways to tackle the issues of lawlessness and a divided society, and offering young people creative, healthy alternatives is one way of encouraging them to keep their outlook — and their deeds — positive. We could benefit greatly from more such initiatives.
Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2015