The ninth storytelling workshop for politicians under School Reading Program 2016 was held in Bahawalpur on April 29 th , 2016. The objectives of the workshop were to brief politicians, local government representatives and education managers on poor learning outcomes, and to deliver a training session on the art of storytelling to facilitate them for a storytelling session with primary students in government schools. The workshop was attended by Minister of State for Federal Education and Professional Training Baligh-ur- Rehman, Jamaat-e- Islami MPA Dr Syed Waseem Akhtar, PMLN MNA Sabiha Nazir, PMLN MPA Hasina Begum, PMLN MPA Fouzia Ayub, EDO Education Chaudhry Bashir Ahmed, DEO Farhat Asma, DEO Secondary Ali Ahmed and DEO Elementary Muhammad Iqbal.
CLF Coordinator Punjab Amna Rizvi gave her opening remarks at the workshop and introduced SRP2016. The trainer for this workshop, Zain Baloch from Carnelian, emphasised on how the interactions among leaders and the students in their constituencies could impact their class performance and contribute to their learning, and that children and their parents would always attribute their success to the particular story the politicians read or school visit they made to his/her school.
The story he read was ‘Siyana Bhulakkar’ about a boy who experiences mishaps on the way to the grocery store due to his poor memory, that participants also read along. He also laid out the benefits storytelling has for children in terms of visual and auditory senses, and personality development; and for the nation as a whole, in that, it creates a healthy society built on the lessons learned from stories, and a progressive narrative for Pakistan and its leaders. All the politicians appreciated the idea of storytelling and pledged to visit schools to play their part in improving quality of education. PMLN MPA Sabiha Nazir pointed out that we have also learned about religion from the stories our elders have narrated to us about the Prophets, and that if we are to expect our children to become leaders of tomorrow, we must invest in them while they are in their formative years. She also narrated a story about a woodcutter who is rewarded for his honesty by an angel. Jamaat-e- Islami’s MPA Dr Syed Waseem Akhtar also spoke in great length and appreciated both AA/CLF for introducing innovative concepts for promotion of education. He was of the view that in our society, no deliberate attempt has ever been made on a societal or national level to ensure best practices of learning and education for our children, in contrast to his experience in the West.
The workshop was concluded with final remarks from State Minister for Education Muhammad Baligh- ur-Rehman. He urged all participants to visit schools under SRP2016, for one, it is time well-spent for both the children and the politicians, and second, they get to see first-hand the schools’ conditions and hear demands from parents, teachers and students alike. He also talked about importance of stories in stimulating critical thinking in students, and amusingly spoke of the criticism politicians receive for telling stories all the time. He also recognised the efforts of AA/CLF and the government’s partnership with both organisations in different endeavours for education. He then stressed on what the figure of 24 million OOSC entails for our country’s future, and one reason for this startling figure was poor quality of education in schools. While acknowledging the increased efforts of all provincial governments in reforming education, he also noted improvements in NER and drop-out rates in 2015, as compared to 2013, and mentioned the new policy changes in the revised education policy.