Contagion Alert! You May Catch a Dream

February 6, 2012

Envisioning the Future of Pakistan

With dreams in their eyes and a bounce in their step, thirteen girls and boys received prizes as winners of a World Bank organized art competition entitled “Pakistan of My Dreams” in the Bank’s Islamabad office on Jan 31, 2012. These youngsters, all students of grades 6 to 8 shared at least two common traits, a) they all go to a public school, and b) no one has ever given them a chance to prove their talents.

Tuesday, January 31st was culmination of a journey that began as a twinkle in the eye of Bank’s Country Director for Pakistan Rachid Benmessaoud. While discussing ideas and themes for the office calendars and diaries, he was struck by the thought of holding an art competition between school children. He discussed the idea with a few of his colleagues and an agreement was reached on “Pakistan of My Dreams” as the theme.

As the Bank office is located in Islamabad, the easiest thing in the world would have been to hold the competition among the private schools scattered all over the capital city of Pakistan. But luckily a staff member suggested that public school children be given a chance as they do not get as many opportunities and exposure as their friends in the private schools. There were some concerns whether public schools would rise to the occasion. And girl oh girl, rise they did. More than 500 students from 12 schools in Rawalpindi district in Punjab, Peshawar district in Kyber Pakhtunkhwa and the federal capital territory of Islamabad participated in the art competition. Out of these, 13 winners’ – 8 girls and 5 boys – submissions were selected for inclusion in the 2012 calendars and diaries.

In addition to the recognition and encouragement that comes through massive dissemination of the calendars and diaries, the Islamabad Office held a prize distribution ceremony on Tuesday where the winning students, their parents, teachers and education department officials were invited. Speaking at the ceremony Sulaiman Khan, a student of Peshawar and Ammara Ayub of Islamabad both had the same message: “We are the future of Pakistan and we will achieve our dream of a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan. A country where all citizens enjoy equal opportunities.”

Rachid Benmessaoud gave away prizes and certificates to the winning students, five of whom had travelled all the way from Peshawar to participate in the ceremony. More than 150 guests including the Bank staff were at hand to encourage the budding artists who went away with even dreamier eyes and bouncier steps.