Saqafat: Interactive Cultural Workshops Program

Pakistani society has been plagued by intolerance and communal agitation for a long while now. Primary reasons include a lack of ownership of one's own culture both on individual and national levels, a lack of understanding about others' cultures, a lack of knowledge regarding the history of the land, and awareness about critical contemporary global ideas. These problems result in an intolerant and unaware society, a problem that starts in Pakistani schools. Most Pakistani school students fall far behind in understanding critical contemporary global ideas like globalization and understanding the importance of cultural diversity and multicultural societies. This is because the curriculum in most Pakistani schools, apart from a few schools catering to the financially privileged, is not inclusive of the diverse cultural and ethnic makeup of the country, which not only creates an intolerant society but also stunts the growth of the students.

“Saqafat: Interactive Cultural Workshops Program” is an initiative that was born out of a need to protect different aspects of the history and culture of Pakistan. This program aims to create an opportunity for students to interact with their cultural heritage and to enable them to express themselves through that heritage. This intermingling of culture and expression creates a safe space where participants can boost their confidence, learn about their culture, learn to work in teams, and release their mental and emotional energies positively. The program is essentially a series of 13 cultural workshops that are focused on different aspects of culture, heritage, history, and diversity. However, all these workshops are also mutually connected as they are organized in the order of increasing complexity and each new workshop builds on the previous workshops.

For this project, 5 learning centers catering to underprivileged and regular school children have been identified in Lahore where this program will be run. The program aims to enable students to understand the idea of cultural diversity and how to conduct themselves in a group that has a diverse makeup. The program also aims to allow the students to learn about the richness of Pakistan’s culture, heritage, and history and derive a sense of confidence from being associated with this richness in their personalities, along with them learning about the different cultures in Pakistan and around the world and consequently learning how to be respectful towards others despite their differences.

This program also aims to make the students consciously aware of how history plays a role in developing different cultures in different ways and enable the students to steer themselves away from discriminatory behavior. The program also focuses on creating an environment where the students can express themselves to channel their emotions and thoughts positively. Last but not least, the program also wants the students to be prepared to become a part of the newly emerging and booming creative industries through gaining knowledge about culture and heritage.

The success of the project will be measured through various quantitative and qualitative metrics. Quantitative metrics would include the total number of workshops conducted, the number of students that attend each of these workshops, and the number of repeat students attending the workshops. The qualitative metrics would include the observations of the student's engagement in the workshops, the impact of these workshops on their understanding of cultural concepts, the impact of these workshops on their academics overall, and the impact assessment on students through the perspective of their teachers.

The project is being executed by Virsapur, founded by Mian Ahmad Farooq; a member of Lahore Hub. The other collaborator is Alkhidmat Foundation, the organization that runs the learning centers where the project will be executed.