For months, TEDxMargalla organizer Saad Hamid and a few of his friends have been volunteering at Pehli Kiran, a school in an impoverished area of Islamabad, Pakistan.
Not a trained teacher, Saad’s work at the school has always had a bent toward the practical. “It wasn’t possible for us to teach the kids regular subjects like Mathematics, English, Science,” he told TEDx, “so instead we had to resort to teaching them [the things] we know best, i.e. arts and crafts, painting, making use of objects for domestic survival, low cost food preparation, etc.”
Wanting the students he worked with to develop a deeper understanding of their community and the world around them, Saad decided to organize a TEDx event tailored to the students’ wants. “It wouldn’t be possible to invite these kids to our regular TEDx events as [they] are very young and their minds are still developing,” he said, “therefore we thought, ‘how amazing it would be if we brought TEDx to the kids instead of taking the kids to a regular TEDx event?’”
Thus, TEDxKids@Islamabad was born. When the idea of creating their own TEDx event was presented to the kids, Saad said, “lots of kids came to us and said that they want to ‘discover’ something [new] at TEDxKids. Things like, importance of trees in environment, history of Pakistan, understanding arts and animation, a musical tour of Pakistan. The theme ‘Aao bacho sair karain’ (translates into ‘Hey kids, let’s discover! [the world]) was carefully selected, [and] keeping their [interests] in mind, we arranged the right speakers/performers for the kids.”
Saad soon discovered that organizing TEDxKids@Islamabad was a completely different experience than that of any event he’d taken on before. “It [was] an all-kids-audience…and it [had] to be organised at the kids’ school, which is in a little remote area of Islamabad,” he said, “so this was quite a challenge that we agreed upon to take and then accomplished.”
Saad wanted TEDxKids@Islamabad to empower these students to be leaders in their community. “[We] had two main objectives with TEDxKids@Islamabad,” he said. “1. To prove that education can be fun [and] 2. To shift focus to ‘kids’ and realising that they are indeed architects of the future.”
“TEDxKids, for the kids,” said Saad, “was an opportunity to design an event of their dreams. It was all about what they wanted and we were there to provide any logistical or other form of support that they required.”
In between, the activities and speakers’ talks, several students gave one minute talks about a story they particularly love. “This was not recorded, since kids felt a little shy,” said Saad, “so the main rehearsed talks…were only done by adult speakers.”
The most memorable moment of TEDxKids@Islamabad came during one of the musical performances. “Apart from our great speakers,” Saad said, “we arranged a whole pool of talented artists…painters, guitarists, folk-musicians and dancers.
“During the performance from Umair Jaffar,” Saad said, “small groups of students stood up and started dancing as soon as they recognised tunes of their local folk music.”
“It was something that I term as “diversity, unified.” Kids from different parts of Pakistan—yet they sat together and as one. It was magical.
“[As all non-TED talks were presented in Urdu] TEDxKids@Islamabad was an opportunity for us to create local TEDx content in our language, which will later be shown to kids in schools in Islamabad and even all around Pakistan,” said Saad. “TEDxKids@Islamabad [is] the first step in achieving a grand milestone of making education fun for kids and recognising their role for a better future…I learned from TEDxKids that TEDTalks, or TEDx Talks, for that matter, are the future of lectures in classrooms, especially in developing countries.”