Children with special needs are most often neglected in our society and while there are a few institutes working for their betterment, a lot still needs to be done to create awareness about the difficulties they face throughout their lives.

This was the aim of Special Children’s Education Institute (SCEI) fundraising spring festival held at the Beach Luxury Hotel on the weekend.

Special children from 25 different schools spent two hours of their Saturday and Sunday afternoons enjoying the games and activities exclusively organised for them. They were soon joined by a huge crowd who enjoyed the festival's concerts, bazaar and food by paying an entry fee of Rs200 - a small donation for the SCEI.

The kids enjoyed fun-filled afternoons this weekend at the SCEI Spring Festival - Photo by Zoral Khurram
The kids enjoyed fun-filled afternoons this weekend at the SCEI Spring Festival - Photo by Zoral Khurram

Educating children with special needs is not an easy task. “Education at our institute is very inclusive. We have all sorts of different therapies, like physiotherapy and speech therapy,” said Meher Cawasji, who has been SCEI’s principal since 1999.

Even the teachers at SCEI have to be trained which adds to their cost, she added.

“Special children’s education is also very expensive. We have one teacher for every three students and in some cases, like autism, we have one teacher per child. We accommodate everyone who comes to us, even those who can’t pay a single penny, but we need funds to sustain ourselves,” said Cawasji.

Special children's education is expensive due to the low student-teacher ratio and costs of teachers' training - Photo by Zoral Khurram
Special children's education is expensive due to the low student-teacher ratio and costs of teachers' training - Photo by Zoral Khurram

She believes that there is a need for awareness, and such events can help create that. “Even when parents of special children come to us, they themselves are not aware of their [child’s] educational needs.”

Amna Malik, another member from the organizing committee, said this event was to put special children on the map in Karachi. “People need to see how blessed they are to be normal and the challenges other special children face.”

Almost every child at the venue was seen involved in activities such as sand art and ‘tie and dye’ as well as games including basketball, trampoline and bowling. Some were ecstatic they could take their art work back home.

More than just schooling, special children deserve ab equal right to happy, fulfilling lives in society - Photo by Zoral Khurram
More than just schooling, special children deserve ab equal right to happy, fulfilling lives in society - Photo by Zoral Khurram

“The activities we have kept here for special children are so attractive that they are actually enjoying themselves here. The games that we designed are specifically for special children,” said physiotherapist Dr Sana Nisar Ahmed who has been working with SCEI for the past year. She was present among the other SCEI teachers who were at the row of stalls doing art activities with children.

The arts is a great outlet for special children who may find it difficult to express themselves - Photo by Zoral Khurram
The arts is a great outlet for special children who may find it difficult to express themselves - Photo by Zoral Khurram

“As a society, these children are our social responsibility,” said Cawasjee. “There are several carnivals taking place but ours is different… [because] our event is to raise funds for special children and to raise awareness.”

A fun-filled bazaar for all

The event catered to children and adults alike. Alongside games and activities for kids, were food stalls, concerts by Komal Rizvi and Fuzon, and an attractive bazaar set up for all attendees.

The Spring Festival was a step towards the inclusion of special children in society - Photo by Zoral Khurram
The Spring Festival was a step towards the inclusion of special children in society - Photo by Zoral Khurram

The bazaar, set up by The Crafters’ Guild, featured everything from arts and crafts to clothing, shoes, jewellery and decor. Several NGOs, including Jiddat by KVTC, Bahbud, The Social Bond, Al Falah Village Embroidery and RLCC, had their stalls as well.

“A huge chunk of the proceeds from this bazaar will go to the funds,” says Varah Mussavir, the brainchild behind The Crafters’ Guild.

The hope is that the festival also helped change people's mindsets about special children - Photo by Zoral Khurram
The hope is that the festival also helped change people's mindsets about special children - Photo by Zoral Khurram

A stall by Children Cancer Hospital (CCH) featured several stationary items with artwork by 15-year-old artist Yakub Nur. “He has been drawing almost since he could hold a pencil,” says Mahnur Haider, Yakub’s sister, who has been volunteering for the CCH.

Wasim Akram’s wife Shaniera Akram and actor Moammar Rana were also spotted at the event.

It was clearly a weekend well spent for the kids! - Photo by Zoral Khurram
It was clearly a weekend well spent for the kids! - Photo by Zoral Khurram

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