In a bid to promote learning and exploration among the youth and children of Pakistan, an extraordinary celebration of education, culture, and environmental awareness in the shape of PLF (Pakistan Learning Festival) took place recently at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi.
The festival was not only a celebration of learning but also a platform to address critical issues Pakistan is facing such as; climate change, education, and child protection. It aimed to empower individuals with knowledge and inspire them to be agents of positive change in their communities.
Attended by a large number of students from both public and private schools, the inaugural event was graced by the presence of the Chief Guest, Ms Rana Husain, Minister of School Education and Literacy, College Education and Women Development. Ms Rana’s arrival set the tone for the event which commenced with the National Anthem performed by Deaf Reach School children and St Joseph’s Convent College students. The event also featured the Pakistan Learning Festival Tarana, titled ‘Hamain Kitab Chahiye’, the lyrics of which were penned by Zehra Nigah, and composition by Rakae Jamil. Baela Jamil, CEO of ITA and Founder of PLF welcomed the audience. A captivating performance was presented by Rose Islamic Academy Lyari, adding to the cultural richness of the event. Acknowledgments were given by Ameena Saiyid, co-founder/advisor of PLF to key figures, who contributed to the success of the event.
This was followed by a segment dedicated to raising awareness about climate change and the need for action, featuring Afia Salam. Mr Tuaha Ahmed Farooqi, Secretary of DEPD, (Department of Empowerment of Person with Disabilities) emphasised the importance of inclusive learning in mainstream schools.
After the resounding opening session, PLF took off with a bang with numerous sessions taking place simultaneously, both in Arts Council’s various auditoriums as well as in the open area, where inter-active workshops were taking place throughout the day. Attendees enjoyed thought-provoking discussions, artistic performances, educational workshops, and interactive learning experiences. It was a unique opportunity for people to come together and explore the many facets of learning, from literature to the environment, and from the arts to technology.
Among the most notable and popular sessions were book launches and story-telling sessions. At the event, 15 new children’s books were introduced, highlighting the collaborative efforts of the Pakistan Literacy Project, Room to Read, and ITA (Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi). The sessions also included narrations by Attiya Dawood and Shabnum Gul and were moderated by Rumana Husain.
The other very popular session of storytelling was bilingual, conducted by Bina Shah in English and Rumana Husain in Urdu of a book titled ‘Sitti’s Bird, Gaza Ki Kahani’, written by a Palestinian author, Malak Mattar, about her own personal experiences, and illustrated by her as well. ‘Bringing Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai in our classrooms’, conducted by Mahtab Akber Rashdi and moderated by Baela Jamil was another interesting session that enlightened the young audience about the Sufi poet as well as Sindhi folklore. Tashina Nur was another popular story-teller who enticed the audience with her gripping style of narration. While on the subject of story-telling, one cannot forget to mention Dadi Gulabi, who roamed around the festival the entire day, narrating stories to children in her engaging style. Two popular screenings that also kept the children enthralled were ‘Desert Dwellers of Tharparkar’ by Dawood Foundation from its ‘Nature Series’, and Urban Forest Film’ by Shahzad Qureshi.
The second and last day of the festival offered an array of remarkable events and sessions, as the day began with a commitment to environmental stewardship, and attendees gathered for ‘Plant a Tree for Climate-Change Action’. The event highlighted the importance of collective action in addressing climate change.
Day 2 included numerous riveting sessions of ‘Suno Kahani Meri Zubani’ featuring Churail as depicted by the hugely talented Sadia Sarmad. There was an insightful session and presentation titled ‘Hum Hero Hein Hum Baa Ikhtiaar Hein’, which focused on the importance of lifelong learning, life skills, and livelihoods by UNICEF.
Renowned theatre actors, Khaled Anam and Raheela Baqai, of OUP shared their passion for books and the world of storytelling in ‘Reading is Dreaming’. This session celebrated the power of literature and the written word. Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in a workshop led by Salma Habib and the creative team from Ulta Pulta Art, including Zheela Ali.
Tehrik-e-Niswan presented ‘Hamara Karachi’, an artistic expression of the city’s rich cultural heritage.
The other highlights included interesting conversation of Tina Sani with students; Ayla Raza’s (of All Pakistan Music Conference) spellbinding and enlightening musical session - ‘Sur, Taal Aur Hum’ which enthralled the students and a panel discussion, featuring Imran Azhar, Rumana Husain, and Saleem Mughal with Afia Salam as the moderator, focused on mobilising superheroes for climate change in emergencies. Another riveting session earlier in the day was conducted by Amna Husain on ‘Fun with Numbers’ where she shared creative ways of using numbers to read time and to do multiplication.
PLF also featured captivating screenings as part of its diverse programme including ‘Museum of Food and Climate Change’, a documentary by SOC Films, and ‘The Silence after the Storm’ by Alina Rizwan, providing attendees with the opportunity to engage with compelling visual narratives that explored important themes.
Throughout the day, a wide array of activities and workshops took place, ranging from inclusive arts and crafts, stories of peace, love, and tolerance, to engaging sessions on subjects like the impact of leather, climate change, and the love of books. Children had the time of their lives, enthusiastically participating in activities such as origami, painting, and colouring. The Learning Enclave offered STEM and digital inclusive learning opportunities, including science shows, interactive learning stalls and safety sessions.
PLF was made possible through the generous support of sponsors and partners including Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi, British Council, Sindh Education Foundation, Candyland, Room to Read, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Agahi and Oxford, among others.
In conclusion, PLF served as a platform for fostering knowledge, promoting awareness, and celebration of learning and growth.