Chief Minister at the Inaugural Session of the Children’s Literature Festival 2011 – Nov 25.
Mian Shabaz Sharif’s presence at the inaugural of the Children’s Literature Festival 2011 was profound in its message to the children and educators sharing his commitment to education, learning and equity as key priorities of his government. The Chief Minister’s session set the tone for the festival that proved to be an extra ordinary and memorable success! Promoting a reading culture and love of books was the central message which the CM underscored so effortlessly and softly. The CM’s address to 3000 children, teachers and authors present won the hearts and minds of many as was a story narrated with impeccable sensitivity. Children and youth are the most valuable constituency to be cultivated for a healthy Pakistan. The CLF 2011 was a historic event, a pioneer festival of its kind in Pakistan. Punjab hosted this for the first time in the country as a national event. All 20,000 who came (4 times our expected number!), entered happy and left happiest with an unforgettable experience! The festival was a an equalizer and healer for ALL children: rich or poor, public and private, urban/rural and that is the spirit of Pakistan with a single message of promoting learning through reading .
Children kept coming wave after wave from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm on November 25-26th 2011, 20,000 children (3- 18 years) with teachers and guardians to participate in the first national Children’s Literature Festival 2011 held at the Children’s library Complex (CLC) Lahore. The two day event drawing unprecedented attention reinforced one’s belief that children do matter; that they can participate to express themselves with full freedom of thought and conscience as per articles 13 and 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Children’s Literature Festival 2011 was a tribute to the children of Pakistan and their right to expression. The Chief Minsiter Punjab Mian Shabaz Sharif inaugurated the Festival in a most befitting manner by reading a story “Raham Dil Madari’ written by Naheed Khan and illustrated by her challenged daughter Maryam Khan. He spoke passionately to the 3000 children present about lessons of courage and care, encouraging youth leadership and promising to radically support quality education for the most deserving in Punjab. Dr. Marilyn Wyatt, the wife of the US Ambassador to Pakistan addressed the inaugural gathering sharing her favourite books as a child, urging children and teachers to promote books and reading culture in classrooms and homes. She later read passages from Tom Sawyer to over 300 children. Promoting the love of books and reading was at the core of the CLF 2011 conceived and executed in a campaign mode so that our children could discover that books are their best friends enriching them with wonder, ideas, questions and imagination. Poor learning levels in Pakistan are not simply illustrative of compromise in quality education but are also a source of social injustice and inequity for children who can afford quality learning and manage to read with comprehension and those who cannot. Textbooks and exam bound culture in schools constrain our students and teachers to go beyond minimal texts.
The festival revealed practically that children are keen to explore and engage with books imaginatively. The Foundation of Open Society Institute (FOSI) Pakistan was its main sponsor committed to campaigns for libraries and reading especially after the passing of the historic 18th amendment and insertion of article 25 A – Right to Education (5-16 years) as a fundamental constitutional right. Sponsorships were provided by the US Consulate (Lahore), the British Council Pakistan; Beaconhouse Group, Rose Petal, Engro and Atlas Honda. Over 30 awards given to winning authors and poets were funded by both individuals and civil society organizations. OUP and ITA implemented the festival. We hope to count on the CM for his support in taking the CLF forward in the years to come. Ms. Kulsoom Hai coordinated CM’s presence at the in a very befitting manner at the Children’s Literature Festival !
Baela Raza Jamil
Director PRograms ITA