Lauding the highly successful Children’s Literature Festival (CLF), Sindh Education Minister Nisar Khuhro said on Saturday that the government fully realised the pivotal importance of education in the future of a nation and that it would endeavour to make education free for all children ranging in age from five to 16; in other words, children would receive free education until matriculation level.
Khuhro said this during the closing ceremony of the CLF at the Arts Council. The two-day programme was organised by the Oxford University Press in collaboration with the ‘I Am Karachi’ consortium, the Habib Bank and other co-sponsors.
Talking about the advantages of holding such festivals, the minister said we should make special efforts to cultivate the young people’s tastes towards sports and the social sciences.
“With the advances in science and technology, which were not there when we went to school, today’s children have entered a new phase of life which will ensure us all a better future.”
Referring to the December 16 Army Public School massacre in Peshawar, Khuhro said: “This was an attack on our future. We should turn that sorrow into strength and make it clear to the terrorists that we shall not be cowed down by such dreadful tactics.”
The education minister congratulated the Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi’s Baela Raza Jamil on holding the grand event.
The closing ceremony had begun with two exquisite dance performances by Tehrik-e-Niswan founder Sheema Kermani’s pupils. It was a meticulously choreographed affair. Next came a qawwali from the children of the Karachi High School.
Baela profusely thanked everyone for their presence, especially the children and the members of the ‘I Am Karachi’ group.
Next came the presentation of the Anita Ghulam Ali Awards for working with the disabled children. The first prize went to Sardar Muhammad Irfan of the Kingston School for Special Education in Abbottabad.
The second prize was bagged by Zarina Fazal of the Imran Rehabilitation Centre in Karachi. The next two awards were secured by Yasmeen Muhammad and Saima Shafiq. Saima received her award from Khuhro.
The CLF’s concluding day, like the previous day, was marked by almost 30 sessions being held simultaneously.
One of these was titled ‘Is there a dearth of children’s literature in Pakistan?’ The panel had as its members noted authors of children’s books: Rumana Husain, Amra Alam, Fauzia Minallah as well as Dr Arfa Syeda Zehra, history professor at the Forman Christian College University in Lahore. The session was moderated by Musharraf Ali Farooqi.
Fauzia complained that there were no books for children in regional languages which, she thought, was a must to win children over to the habit of reading.
All the panellists were of the view that one of the main reasons for lack of interest in reading among children was because the books were not adequately illustrated or designed.
Amra related a certain incident in London where, she said, they sold 9,992 copies of a children’s book.
The following year, she said, the sales had dropped to 8,000.
She said a thorough research was carried out and it turned out that the design of the book was not attractive enough. When they redesigned the book, the sales crossed the 10,000 mark the following year, she added.
Rumana lamented that there was a dearth of
children’s authors in the country. She was of the view that we should bring the finer things of the world into the storybooks, like trees, flowers, colourful birds and nature.
Dr Arfa, in her characteristically frank and sometimes hard-hitting tone, said that what was most objectionable was the hate and militancy material that our children’s books, including primers, were concentrating on.
She said that today primers, while teaching alphabets, had “T for tank”, “G for grenade” and “M for missile”.
All this would do is cultivate an attitude of militancy in the child, she added and vehemently decried the trend.