Education and Recreation
Children between the ages of 5 and 15 make up the largest age group in Machar Colony, with families in the community having 9 children on average. There is a huge need to provide educational and recreational programs for the children of this community.
Machar Colony has very low levels of literacy — only 11.6% of the community has completed some form of education. This includes those who can only read and write their own names. Currently 33% of children in Machar Colony attend a school or madrassah and over half of all children work in shrimp peeling factories.
Despite there being 67 private schools and 9 government schools in the community, children are still getting involved in anti-social activities on the streets, including drugs, gambling, and violence. As the majority of the community is stateless, children without recognized identity documents are unable to gain admission in mainstream schools. Several of the children who are able to attend school eventually refuse to go and drop out due to the use of corporal punishment, long working hours in shrimp peeling factories, and unaffordable tuition fees.
Khel is a learning and recreational centre for the children of Machar Colony. It is a safe haven for the children and a space trusted by families where their children can play, learn, and grow.
Khel uses a holistic approach to child development, with a focus on addressing the individual physical, mental, and emotional needs of children.
History and Evolution of Khel
In 2015, a rundown shrimp peeling factory was turned into Machar Colony’s first recreational centre: Khel. As Imkaan’s flagship project, Khel has been reimagined over the years with input from the community.
With the change in attitude and behavior of the children towards learning, the parents and elders of the community requested Imkaan that education be a part of everyday activities at Khel.
Khel now has two areas of focus: Education and Sports/Recreation.
Khel’s education component provides children with basic literacy skills, with a focus on reading and writing in Urdu and English and mathematical abilities. Through their learning, children gain knowledge on topics related to science and the world around them, the importance of hygiene and cleanliness, and values like generosity.
At Khel, teachers don’t follow a typical structured classroom curriculum. Instead, they utilize a multi-age teaching approach where children are grouped according to their learning level rather than age. This child-centric and learner-centric approach allows for the following benefits:
- Peer to Peer Learning
- Cross Age Interactions
- Continuous Reinforcement
There are no letter grades assigned at Khel, nor are children compared to one another. As a result, children can focus on learning and are more likely to cooperate than compete. A spirit of cooperation and caring makes it possible for children to help each other as individuals and not see each other as competitors.
The need for an informal educational setting like Khel is dire in Machar Colony due to the inability of stateless children to access mainstream schooling. Those children who possess the required identity documents and the financial means to attend private or government schools are supported by Khel teachers in bringing up their literacy and education levels to the standards set by schools.
Khel’s Accomplishments in Education
- Approximately 60 new children are enrolled in Khel every year, with a total of 140 children, including returning children, in 2022- 2023
- Over 60 children from Khel have successfully transitioned into the mainstream education system. Children who did not know how to read or write prior to coming to Khel have passed entrance tests for admission into Grades 1, 3, and 9.
- 226 children from the host community (non-stateless children) successfully transitioned to mainstream education after only a year at Khel.
- 476 children (combination of stateless and non-stateless children) have been registered in Khel’s education component since its launch.
- Khel has developed a strong relationship with parents based on a foundation of trust, which has helped reinforce the importance of education especially for girls.
For more information download brochure
Khel’s sports and recreation program focuses on the following:
- Skill development
- Physical exercise
- Character development
- Building positive self-esteem
- Learning to respect rules, coaches, team colleagues, and opponents
Khel’s Accomplishments in Sports/Recreation
Children at Khel have excelled at gymnastics and table tennis in particular, with achievements in cheerleading as well. Khel has qualified coaches who have coached both boys and girls to form teams that participate in local and regional games.
The girls’ gymnastics team of 7 have participated in 9 inter-school level games and have won several championships and medals including best team, best gymnast, all-around, vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise. Out of the 7 girls, 3 have gone onto become Gold Medalists in the Sindh Gymnastics Team.
Although the children at Khel have developed into fine athletes, they are limited in their ability to further their athletic aspirations due to statelessness and a lack of identity documents. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a rare opportunity to the gymnastics team to participate in international events online. These events included the Gensan International Competition in which Khel gymnasts Umme Kulsoom and Anwara won gold, silver, and bronze medals for competitions in Olympic-level games, and the International Cheerleading Festival organized by Russia in which the Khel team achieved First Position in the Junior Category.
The table tennis program was created for the older children of the community who were looking for extracurricular activities after school and madrassah. Table tennis is taught at Khel to children ages 7 and up. The Khel boys team has been participating in inter-school level games and has been a runner-up in all games after two years of dedicated practice and the girls team have won two championships. The team continues to learn and develop their skills with enthusiasm.
From Athletes to Child Rights Defenders
Article 1 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”.
By participating in professional sports in various local, national, and international platforms and through capacity building efforts by Imkaan, Khel’s gymnastics and table tennis teams have been empowered to come forward as Child Rights Defenders, bringing their stories and their struggles as stateless children to the forefront in the fight for their rights and the rights of other stateless children.
The children have advocated for their community through a number of media campaigns and have facilitated media coverage of their community’s plight as stateless individuals with no opportunities to grow. With an understanding of their role as Child Rights Defenders, the children are able to offer recommendations on what needs to happen to protect and promote their human rights in hopes of influencing decision makers at the national level and contributing to the strengthening of the international human rights framework.
For more information download brochure