Friday, the 26th, marked an auspicious day in the literary calendar of the city as a highly informative and colourful Teachers’ Literature Festival got under way at the Arts Council.
Sponsored mainly by the Oxford University Press (OUP), Pakistan and co-sponsored by other companies, the festival, an overall part of the Karachi Children’s Festival which will be held over the next two days, drew a large gathering of educationists from all across the country.
It was heartening to see a large number of publishing houses and companies catering to children’s education in the form of books and advanced educational aids.
The day started off with 36 sessions on the many facets of education being held in various rooms of the Arts Council simultaneously. One of these was a panel discussion titled, “Teaching eco-system: challenges and opportunities for teachers in Pakistan”.
The panel comprised Aban Haq, Farida Zuberi, Raheela Fatima, Hareem Atif Khan, and Noorul Ain Masood.
Aban Haq of Ilm Ideas presided over the proceedings of the panel.
Farida Zuberi was of the view that a lot many who came into the profession didn’t quite do so for the love of it but because they had never explored other avenues, other professions, while there were those who took up the professions on the premise that it would afford them a secure place in society. For many, she thought, it was not a profession of choice. She said that in their programme, teachers’ training was the core activity.
The second panel speaker, Raheela Fatima, said teachers had the potential to be leaders. They had to change the community’s mindset in order to change that of the child.
“We found that children in Pakistan were keen to learn and had the full capability but how can such a thing happen when there are no teachers in schools? What could we expect when teachers have such a shoddy approach to their profession?” she queried.
Farida Zuberi pointed out that the “eco-systems” in government and private schools were far apart. “Training is highly relevant as teachers apply it to their classrooms, which is highly advantageous.”
She further said that there was a disconnect between educational policies and classroom experiences.
Another panelist said it was very nice for teachers to be trained “but when a teacher had to go back to a class with 42 children and the principal or administrator not having undergone that training, things were sure to go awry”.
All the panelists were of the view that teachers’ voices must be heard and teachers should be articulate in their thoughts.
This was followed by methods of teaching English by Shaheena Alvi.
Another interesting session was the one titled, “Understanding Faiz in the classroom”, conducted by the poet’s grandson, Adeel Hashmi. Hashmi said his grandfather, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, was maltreated good and proper by successive regimes and was blacked out of all syllabi and curricula.
“I feel that it was because he sympathised with the poor, the downtrodden, the workers who through the sweat of their brow keep a country going, the victims of official injustices, and others. That didn’t fit in with the agenda of the ruling cliques,” he said. “The collective temperament of our society is very mercurial,” he said and quoted the example of motorists who came to blows even if their car bumpers just gently touched each other without even causing minimal damage. “Never expect anything sensible from the corporate sector.”
Most of the time, however, he spoke on the importance of using the national language, Urdu, rather than English. He decried the trend whereby English speakers are looked upon as stylish or trendy while the “Urdu medium ones” are referred to with scorn. Many companies had set up their stalls to display items of children’s learning.
One of the highly encouraging exhibitions was the stall belonging to The Communicators, which had a radio run on two motorcycle batteries, with perfect reception, no ionospheric disturbances, broadcasting children’s programmes. This was a resounding testimony to the ingenuity of our people.
The two young ladies, Fatima Azher and Sana Afzal, manning the stall, told The News that they were beaming programmes to 350 schools in Vehari, Islamabad and Abbottabad.
Another stall by the Hyderabad-based Management Development Foundation had a wide assortment of primers in a lot of subjects, including English and Mathematics, adopting a revolutionary approach which makes learning highly enamouring for children. Nasreen Memon, the incharge of the stall, explained the revolutionary aspects of the matter in the primers.