If you type “Turbat” into Google, chances are that the top ten news stories will have headlines full of “killed” and “bodies”. But mercifully, today, there is a different story to tell from this part of Balochistan: It held its first ever summer camp.
For all of July, 75 girls and boys from class eight to 10 were bussed in from thirty villages for the Kech Summer Camp being hosted at the University of Turbat. For some of them it was a struggle to persuade their parents to let them attend instead of work to support the family.
The summer camp is the brainchild of Granaz Baloch, who hails from Turbat herself. She teaches at the university part-time and she runs an organization called Udaan that works with young people and women on developing skills leading to jobs. “We had a summer school last year, but I thought, why not have something that develops the skills of the kids from public schools?” she said.
Trainers were invited from all over Pakistan. Sonal Dhanani, an art therapist, did a session on self-discovery through art. Via Skype they had an interactive session with Dr Yarjan Abdul Samad, a space scientist at Cambridge university, who happens to be a Baloch from Buleda. Zahra Amber, Sara Nisar and Ajay Pinjani worked on design thinking, Mohsin Mehmood Khan and Hamza Saeed did Robotics, Dr Rauf Raz spoke about Baluchi literature, Huma Zia did a Math-a-thon among others.
“The idea was to teach them skills that can help them generate an income for themselves [later on],” says Dr Haneef Baloch, who teaches Biochemistry at the university and worked with Granaz to organise the camp. “They already are doing art, but how can they take it up professionally.” The goal was to expose them to new ideas and a world beyond themselves.
In Turbat exposure is scant. There has been no 3G service for a year at least after it was cut off. The students don’t all have smart phones and if they do, there is no internet.
These restrictions make the summer camp all the more precious as an opportunity to connect. Wahag Wahid from Government Model High School for Boys in Turbat was impressed to learn from Dr Yarjan about an anaerobic digester, which can be built at home. “Pakistan was considered a country of terrorists,” he said. “But now if we see inventions, discovery, contributions… are getting developed.”
The month was filled with sessions on science and math, learning how to debate, meditate, be grateful, work in a team, express anger through art. They got their first taste of robotics, how to make games on a computer, shoot a video, do some digital and data storytelling. They got the permission to allow themselves to think they could become artists when they grow up, singers, photographers.
Street theatre artist Waqas Manzoor, an MPhil student at LUMS, came to hold an acting workshop which primed the students for their video shoots and scriptwriting. “We go to the big urban centres, so why not Turbat,” Waqas said. He found the students to be untainted in their yearning to learn, innocent sponges soaking up whatever knowledge was coming their way.
“I had a wonderful time interacting with students,” said Dr Yarjan. “I was enthralled by their energy and eagerness. I am really happy to be a part of this summer camp, which I believe is utilizing the positive energies of these kids for their own good.”
For many of the students, it was also a chance to get to know others from surrounding villages and make new friends. As they were divided into groups of four or five, they had to delegate and lead. “They are very competitive,” said Granaz. One student burst into tears when the file for the video their group shot wouldn’t play on the overhead projector.
“I feel proud,” said Granaz. “On the first day these kids didn’t know who they were and what they were doing, but today they tell me what they want to do.”