The second storytelling workshop for politicians under School Reading Program 2016 was held in Hyderabad on March 10 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 MQM MPA Rashid Khilji, MQM MPA Sabir Hussain Qaimkhani, MQM MPA Aisha Khatoon, PTI representative Zulfiqar Halepoto, PPP Tehsil Nazim Kashif Shoro, DEO Hyderabad Akbar Memon and TEO Hyderabad-Matiari Abdullah Mallah.
Talea Zafar of ToffeeTV, began the storytelling session by explaining the objectives and purpose of the School Reading Program, and CLF’s objectives and Alif Ailaan’s four themes for 2016. The second trainer Rabia Garib continued with highlighting ASER’S 2015 learning levels figures, with emphasis on Sindh being at the bottom-end in categories of ‘Class 5 students who can read sentences in English’ and ‘Class 5 students who can do two-digit math.’
They asked the participants about the need to carry forward the tradition of storytelling in households and communities, to which PTI leader Zulfiqar Halepoto responded that even when parents attempt to tell stories to children at home, it becomes increasingly clear that children face multiple barriers in understanding the concepts within those stories – one of which is not being familiar with local contexts and local languages, and this is partially due to weaknesses in school syllabi, teachers’ competencies, and the ways students’ performances are assessed.
MQM MPA Aisha Khatoon argued that children are foremost inspired by their teachers as they are the central figure in the classrooms, and their attitude influences the behaviour of the child and his/her ability to question things or speak up during class. She suggested that public schools need to massively focus on teachers’ training as private schools are still at least better off when it comes to having healthy teacher-student relationships that benefit students’ learnings.
MQM MPA Sabir Hussain lamented that despite the promise of improving education being a part of every party’s manifesto in Sindh and the efforts made by different lawmakers to introduce related legislation, the situation has not gotten any better. He said that we cannot gauge a child’s learning levels by the weight of his school bag or the thickness of his books – it ultimately comes down to the knowledge and skills he/she is capable of transferring to others. He added that public education system is subject to constant experimentation that results in indecision and inefficiency.
PPP Tehsil Nazim Kashif Shoro agreed with the picture that data on learning levels presents, especially in Sindh. DEO Akbar Memon also spoke at the occasion. The trainer then started with explaining the techniques of storytelling with her story, Sakhi Darakht – a tale about the relationship between man and a tree, signifying man’s dependence on nature. Rashid Khilji, Kashif Shoro and Akbar Memon took turns in reading out parts of the story with expressions as per the trainer’s guidelines focused on voice modulation, body language and tone.
All participants agreed that creative learning tools like storytelling should be made a part of the syllabus in schools, and committed to hold storytelling sessions at government schools.