The much-anticipated three-day Pakistan Learning Festival (PLF), an initiative of the Children’s Learning Festival (CLF), kicked off with a series of interactive sessions and activities on Tuesday, November 14, 2021 at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi. PLF is the flagship program of civil society organisation Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA)
The event, being co-hosted by the Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi ; Secretary School Education and Literacy Department (SELD), Govt of Sindh Ghulam Akbar Laghari; and DC South Irshad Ali Sodhar, is being held in partnership with Bank of Punjab, Habib Metropolitan Bank, Oxford University Press (OUP), Room to Read (RtR), British Council Pakistan, National Foods, Sindh Education Foundation (SEF), EdLab Pakistan, Learning Pitch, CandyLand, Essa Laboratories, Lightstone Publishers, Sightsavers Pakistan, SOC Films, Telenor, Oxfam in Pakistan, UNESCO, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Museum and K-Electric.
Sindh Minister for Information and Labour Saeed Ghani inaugurated the three-day event as the Chief Guest along with SELD Secretary Laghari and CLF Goodwill Ambassador Ahsan Khan. The minister appreciated ITA and CLF’s efforts for providing an inclusive learning platform and a wonderful avenue to improve exposure to innovative and exciting new means of learning, especially post Covid-19. Actor Ahsan Khan thrilled the audience with his presence and talked about promoting learning and protection as well as making Faiz Ahmed Faiz popular in schools and classes.
The festival began with National Anthem sung by students of Deaf Reach in the packed Sohail Rana Open Theatre, followed by the diverse St. Joseph’s Convent (SJC) Choir singing the inspirational CLF anthem ‘Humain Kitab Chahiye’ written by Zehra Nigah and composed by Rakae Jamil. ITA CEO Baela Raza Jamil, shared with the audience elements of the magic of CLF and its transformation into PLF. She shared how ITA and CLF continued to work during COVID so that learning never stops, adding that the PLF is a part of ITA’s efforts to mitigate the learning losses incurred due to school closures. Ameena Saiyid, co-founder CLF and its advisor, acknowledged the contribution of sponsors and partners to the cause of promoting the joy of reading, creativity and learning among our children and teachers.
A selection of 28 colorful and exciting children’s books, produced by RtR and adapted into Sindhi by ITA under the Pakistan Literacy Project (PLP) were launched in the presence of esteemed guests. Four other books – Aik Sabaq Seekha by child author Aminah Alavi, Kaun Badshah Banna Chahta Hai by RtR and translated in Braille by SightSavers, Hamara Adabi Jashan written and illustrated by Maria Riaz, and Amai and Shabnam by Fauzia Minallah were also launched. Meanwhile, BoP CEO and President Zafar Masud announced the winners of Young Author Award 2021-2022 as the guest of honor.
OUP Managing Director Arshad Saeed Husain, British Council Area Director Michael Houlgate, EDLAB Co-founder and Director Muhammad Baqar, Abdullah Khan from Telenor and Saira Khan from National Foods also participated and lauded the efforts of ITA and CLF in organizing this hybrid learning festival. Kitab Gari, a mobile rickshaw library rightly called ‘Jadoo Gari’, was also launched at the PLF and engaged the children, teachers and families through interactive activities throughout the day.
The first day saw the grounds and halls packed with children with multiple parallel sessions taking place in venues named after Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Sohail Rana, Haseena Moin, Ahmed Shah, Fahmida Riaz, Mohenjo-daro, Anita Ghulam Ali, Sadiqain ki Gali, Jamshed Nusserwanjee Mehta courtyard and Burns Road. The day was full of lively activities and sessions with the highlights being a conversation with Dr. Arfa Syeda Zehra, Zehra Nigah and Mahtab A. Rashdi ‘Adab, Zuban aur Tehzeeb’; poetry session ‘Aao Bait Bazi Seekhain’ by Syed Nusrat Ali; concert by SJC choir; book launches by PLP and young authors moderated by Rumana Husain, Saiyid, Dr. Fouzia Khan, Rashdi and Atiya Dawood; and panel discussion on Climate Change and Global Warming by Tofiq Pasha Mooraj, Azra Raza and a student which was moderated by Afia Salam. The event thus served as a platform to connect literary figures, thinkers, poets, and artists who produce new knowledge, with the children, teachers, parents and caregivers who are searching for effective and accelerated ways of learning in such difficult and uncertain circumstances.
The multiple sessions and activities at PLF Karachi were all carefully curated and conducted by renowned Resource Persons. This included theatre play ‘Jungle Jungle Zindabad’ by Sheema Kermani of Tehrik-e-Niswan; Music, Math and Nature by Asif Sinan; Let’s Talk Films for Social Change by Samar Minallah; open mic session ‘Bol Ke Lab Azaad Hain Teray’ by Atif Badar and Seema Zahid; Cinema Ghar; Saying it with Gogi Cartoons by cartoonist Nigar Nazar.
Not only this, the Art of Bookmaking by OUP, STEAM activities by Science Fuse, numeracy-heritage by SBP Museum, tiny tales and arts & crafts by British Council Library, Environment and Climate Change Corner by the Grand Maali of Pakistan Tofiq Pasha Mooraj, Digital-3D activities by Wonder Tree, Learning Pitch, Teach the World Foundation (TTWF) and Popup Learning; interactive activities by SEF and DIY arts and crafts by Naunehal Magazine attracted hordes of inquisitive children in the courtyard. The arts and crafts workshops, such as those by the acclaimed Salma Habib, also generated a lot of interest. The day closed with indeed an unforgettable concert Ali Hamza Rakae Jamil and Rappers Waqas aka “Kakay”.
The PLF/CLF/TLF are ITA’s flagship nationwide programs, promoting learning and above all social emotional learning especially at the time of COVID-19. They have a nationwide footprint, having completed 74 CLFs in all provincial capitals, Islamabad and over 25 districts of the country, digital CLFs and PLFs, collectively reaching over 1.6 million children and teachers since its inception in November, 2011.