Educationist Mehmet Karadayı wrote about the impact of a science fair organized by the PakTurk Schools in Islamabad on students and the city residents. He also explained how the flags of the two countries on the PakTurk logo opened closed doors.
We used to hold an annual event, a science fair, with our students in Islamabad. The fair used to be held in the entrance hall of our schools’ girls section. In 2004, we decided to hold this fair outdoors. This arose several questions and issues. The most important issue was where to organize the function. There was a large square in F-10 Markaz close to where our school was located. This square, surrounded by shops, had many visitors throughout the day. We could consider holding our traditional science fair in a tent we would set up here. A union of tradesmen there managed the business centre where the shops were located. We visited there and asked permission to pitch a tent in the square. They welcomed us warmly. When we told them about our project, they showed interest, but said they did not have the authority to permit an activity to be held in the square owned by the Capital Development Authority (CDA).
It was easy to get an appointment with the CDA. We visited the relevant department and filed an official application. They replied us after three days, but we were disappointed. The officials said they would allow no tents in the square as it could interfere with the commercial activities of the shops there. Everyone was sad. We had to find a way out. We visited the CDA once again. We wished to explain ourselves in person to the official concerned. He welcomed us with great kindness, but said it was impossible to change the decision taken. As we left the room, each of us wore a long face.
You have one week, start preparations ASAP!
There’s a proverb in Turkish “Kul sıkışmadan Hızır yetişmezmiş!” which translates as “cometh the hour cometh the man” to English, explaining the condition when one has their back against the wall and it seems they have no choice, the best solutions are provided to them as if by a divine favour. People worthy of such a divine favour realize with amazement how they could not have thought of that thing before, how they could not look at that thing from that angle, or how they could not notice the people offering assistance right from the start. While walking towards the exit in great distress, we met a PakTurk parent in the CDA office. When he asked us why we were there, we explained and he said, “Why don’t you hold your science fair at the designated fairground?” Fairground? We didn’t even know there was a fair and at a designated place! After learning where and when the fair would be held, we asked the actual question: “Do you think the fair organizers will give us a place?” The parent, who was pleased with our enthusiasm, replied with a smile: “You have one week. Begin preparations; I’ll take the permission for you.” While leaving the CDA office, we tried our best to suppress our cries of joy. We returned to school with the first taxi we found and started preparations.
The news awaited arrived soon after. The fair would be held in the Fatima Jinnah Park, Sector F-9. A popular spot, the F-9 Park was also close to our school. The fair organizers had allotted us the Stall No. 53 in the fairground. We immediately went to the park to set our tent. It was a flat area. It didn’t even take three hours to set up the tent thanks to the expertise of our colleagues. We had a large grey tent with a pointed dome. When we finished around 2 pm, we looked around and it felt strange. No other tent had been set near ours. The fair was to start on the next day, but there were a few tents erected at the spot we guessed to be the central fairground. There was a distance of about fifty metres between ours and those tents. It seemed impossible for the fair visitors to notice us. Everyone thought we needed to be closer to the fairground centre. We looked at each other and dismantled the tent. We thought no new tent would be set up after that time, we set up our tent on a spot of our liking and left the park.
Our tent quickly became the centre of attention
We were wrong! A surprise awaited us the next morning when we arrived for the fair inauguration. Our tent was in the middle of the fairground. After we left, the fairground got busier and the participants set up their tents within a couple of hours. We had our tent set in the central square of the fairground. No one objected it, because we had not occupied anyone else’s stall. All of our teachers were ready at the inauguration with their best clothes and lanyards holding the ID cards bearing our school logo.
The banner with our logo having the flags of Pakistan and Turkey fluttered over our tent and immediately drew attention. Our tent soon became the centre of attention. Our students were pleased with the interest shown. With great care and dexterity, they demonstrated what they had learned at school, carried out mini experiments, and answered visitors’ questions with full confidence. They simulated the eruption of a volcano on one table, explained the working principle of the machines on another table, and entertained the visitors with mind games and intelligence tests. At one point, our tent became so crowded that we had to request two of our colleagues to act sentries at the entrance. They admitted visitors inside according to the number of visitors leaving. Our tent, lively with experiments and shows during the day, became the scene of cultural activities in the evening, and our teachers presented folk dances from different regions of Anatolia accompanied by Turkish folk music.
We were surprised by an official’s close interest in us!
We didn’t even realize how five days passed. At the end of five full days, our students forgot their exhaustion and asked their teachers, “When will we hold the forthcoming science fair?” The popularity of our science fair tent also attracted the attention of the press and we were covered by several local and national dailies. The science fair had achieved its objectives. It proved an opportunity for our students to showcase their learning and to introduce our school in the best way. Undoubtedly, parents and teachers who prepared the students in the best way were the happiest. They enjoyed the happiness of witnessing the fruits of their labour.
We left the fairground early on the last day because we had to go to the airport to receive a delegation from Turkey. While entering the airport, we were caught in a dense gridlock. As we drove on almost inch by inch, we saw an officer approaching us. He looked at our school logo bearing the flags of Pakistan and Turkey on our van and asked, “Are you here for the delegation from Turkey?” We said “yes,” but were also surprised. We had informed no one about the incoming delegation. The official parted the road barrier and signalled for us to drive on. When we entered from there, we quickly reached the international arrivals terminal, received our guests without delay and left the airport through the dedicated exit. Everyone was beaming with smiles on the way to our foundation head office.
When the door opened, dozens of people rushed at once
After resting at the foundation office for a while, we went to the Faisal Masjid, because the delegation wished to perform the afternoon prayer there. The beauty of the mosque and its environment enchanted everyone. We forgot to enter the mosque as everyone were around taking pictures. When we heard the call to prayer signalling the start of the congregational ‘asr prayer, we rushed to the door, but could not enter the mosque. The doors were closed and two attendants were standing guard. I don’t know if it still is, but I heard it was a precaution to prevent any attack during prayers. No matter how much we insisted, the attendants did not open the doors. Suddenly one guard noticed the lanyard around my neck. When he saw the flags of Pakistan and Turkey in our school’s logo, he asked me, “Is this a Turkish delegation?” When I said, “yes”, he immediately opened the door. When dozens of people saw that, they rushed to the door to enter. He pointed at me and told me to let the members of the delegation in. I signalled him when all members of the delegation entered and the attendants closed the doors.
Our school logo was a magnificent example of the brotherhood between the two countries and the two peoples. Just as it opened the doors of thousands of hearts every day, it had opened the most difficult doors twice that day. I am happy to have the honour of experiencing this brotherhood personally in Pakistan.