Children’s Literature Festival (CLF), a nationwide movement and flagship program of civil society organization Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), went hybrid to hold the first Pakistan Learning Festival (PLF) from February 8–10, 2021 to promote learning during the pandemic.
The multi-site, multilingual and multi-cultural festival, being held in collaboration with British Council Pakistan, Children Library Complex (CLC), Oxford University Press (OUP) Pakistan, Room to Read and National History Museum (NHM), kicked off on Monday 8th Feb, 2021 with a number of interactive sessions and activities taking place simultaneously at three locations – CLC and NHM in Lahore, and OUP Bookstore Park Towers in Karachi – where a few students and teachers were present on site while mostly attended it online from across Pakistan and beyond. This makes it a hybrid learning festival providing a rich vicarious experience to the online audience and creating a strong pull for learning from each other in very small groups in physical open spaces. Over a 100 sessions have been planned for the three-day learning festival with 76 resource persons from Pakistan, Nepal, UK and USA and 20 partner organizations participating in varied activities aimed at the learning of children.
The first day of the PLF opened with National Anthem by students of Deaf Reach School followed by Sanjan Nagar School Choir singing CLF Tarana ‘Humain Kitab Chahiye’ written by Zehra Nigah and composed by Rakae Jamil. This was followed by Kathak performance by Har Sukh school and Sufi songs by Mahnoor Altaf, a child prodigy. Room to Read’s adapted Book in Urdu “Caterpillar ko Joota Chaiyeh” was launched through role play by government primary school Nishtar Colony Lahore, under the Pakistan Literacy Project with simultaneous rendition in Pakistan Sign Language by DeafReach Pakistan.
CLC Chairperson Marriam Khokhar, British Council Area Director Michael Houlgate, OUP Managing Director Arshad Saeed Husain and eminent journalist Zubeida Mustafa also participated and lauded the efforts of ITA and CLF in organizing this hybrid learning festival. ITA CEO Baela Raza Jamil shared how ITA and CLF continued to work during COVID so that learning never stops, adding that the PLF is a part of CLF’s efforts to mitigate the learning losses incurred due to school closures.
The day was full of lively activities and sessions with the highlights being a session on classical multi-lingual poetry by Mahtab Rashdi, Abaseen Yousafzai, Sarwat Mohiuddin and Ali Raza; storytelling by CLF Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Jamil, British Council, STEAM from Karkhana in Nepal and Atif Badar’ theatre session; back-to-back panel discussions on Single National Curriculum were held by experts on implementation challenges and the 4Cs. Moreover, there was a book launch of ‘Little Jimmy’ by Neda Mulji; a workshop targeting teachers by Karkhana; art of bookmaking by OUP; art of comics by AzCorp Entertainment, digital learning by MUSE-SABAQ; storybytes by ITA-CLF; virtual tour of Walled City; session on Critical Thinking and Creativity by The Citizens Archive of Pakistan; puppet show; talks and performances by Har Sukh and much more.
The hybrid event aimed at providing an equalizing platform for ALL to promote diverse and innovative means of learning as children suffer from learning losses as a result of COVID-19 and the subsequent school closures. The idea of PLF is to unlock the potential for critical thinking, creativity, reading, social emotional learning, life skills, and much more and to reach out to every corner of the country. Hundreds of children from all across Pakistan participated in the zoom sessions while thousands watched them live on Facebook. The children termed the hybrid event as a great source of learning and entertainment as it aimed to mitigate the effects of the current Learning Emergency in Pakistan engulfing millions of children, youth, and educators in its fold.
CLF is a social movement founded by Baela Raza Jamil of ITA and co-founded by Ameena Saiyid of Adab Festival in collaboration with a number of eminent advisers and private and public organizations. The CLF has a nationwide footprint, having completed 71 CLFs in all four provincial capitals, Islamabad and over 25 districts of the country, and one digital CLF reaching over 1.5 million children and teachers since its inception in November, 2011. The new PLF initiative reaches out to wider audiences across Pakistan and the diaspora across the world, popularizing local languages, ensuring dignity of all in curating content and storytelling and promoting inclusive learning for ALL.