By Noman Ahmed
KARACHI: Among the 12 colourful pages of the United Nations Girls Education Initiative’s (UNGEI) calendar for this year, contains a drawing made by 14-year-old Shaheer Ahmed, a class VIII student at the Bahria Model School Karsaz.
The dozen pictures in the calendar were selected from over 3,000 submissions to the UNGEI Asia-Pacific Drawing Contest 2011. Youngsters, below 18 years of age, from 24 countries from Asia and the Pacific region applied to the competition. The theme of the drawing contest was, “How does girls’ and boys’ equality in education help us all?”
“The aim of the calendar was to raise public awareness about regional issues of gender equality in education, and to paint a picture of the benefits reaped from gender equality in education,” said United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) Bangkok director Gwang-Jo Kim.
Shaheer wanted his elders to follow suit. “I would like to see older people upholding the country’s name through good deeds, like the ones children have been doing,” Shaheer told The Express Tribune.
Shaheer had used wax crayons to outline the drawing and then painted it in watercolour during his summer vacations last year. “In my drawing, I placed a male and a female student on a weighing scale, [which is] perfectly balanced.” The star to the left of the scale represents a compass, which shows that the scale would remain balanced, regardless of the direction it is viewed from.
Apart from Shaheer, other youngsters whose drawings made to the calendar belonged to China, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Laos, New Zealand, Malaysia and Cambodia.
Despite having an interest in painting, Shaheer is more fascinated by astronauts and wants to pursue a career in aerospace engineering.
“Our children are not less talented than children of other countries,” said Shaheer’s father, Rehmatullah Shaikh. “We only need to provide them equal opportunities to help them utilise their talent while competing all over the world.”
Pakistan is a country where female students frequently become victims of discrimination, and the net primary school enrolment ratio is 76 per cent for boys but only 57 per cent for girls, said Bahria Model School Karsaz principal Rakhshanda Kaukab.
Kaukab told The Express Tribune that her school receives invitations for numerous events and competitions, and she lets students participate in activities they are interested in.
“This was a big competition and I’m proud that [Shaheer] bagged the prize,” said Kaukab. Kaukab also recommended Shaheer’s name for the Chief of the Naval Staff Award, which is given by the Pakistan Navy to students who excel in academic and extracurricular activities.