The first storytelling workshop for politicians under School Reading Program 2016 was held in Islamabad on February 17 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 PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar, PTI Senator Samina Abid, PTI MNA Nafeesa Khattak, PTI MNA Ayesha Gulalai, PMLN Deputy Mayor of Islamabad Zeeshan Naqvi, DEO Male Rawalpindi Muhammad Akram Zia, DEO Female Rawalpindi Shahida Hashmi and Area Education Officers from ICT namely Farida Yasmin, Sadia Adnan, Ghulam Mustafa Qureshi and Abdul Waheed.
Facilitator for the workshop Rimsha Ali Shah started her training session by explaining the objectives and purpose of the School Reading Program. She presented Alif Ailaan’s four themes for 2016 and ASER’s data on learning levels for the year 2015, before starting off with her training on storytelling. She began with discussing the importance of storytelling to children as in it can be used as a tool to educate children in an easy and interactive manner; to inculcate the habit of reading in children; and as a creative form of art to impart complex social realities to children.
The story that the she chose for the audience was Bheej Kaag, based on a scarecrow and how it perceives its form to be a hindrance to its ability to experience the freedom to fly like the birds that sit on it during the day. Through the reading of the story, the trainer guided the participants by emphasising on certain delivery techniques for effective storytelling with children such as pitch, gestures, voice modulation, and seating arrangement. Towards the end of the story, the trainer requested the participants to voluntarily read out a part from the story and opened the forum for discussion by participants on the tradition of storytelling and quality of education in Pakistan.
Senator Farhatullah Babar expressed shock over the data presented on poor learning outcomes, and appreciated the aim of the program to increase the space given to quality of learning in the education discourse. PTI MNA Ayesha Gulalai commented that promises to improve the quality of education should not remain limited to election manifestoes, and content in textbooks be improved to bring government school students at par with those studying in private schools.
All politicians gave their commitments to visit government schools for a storytelling session and PMLN Deputy Mayor of Islamabad Zeeshan Naqvi promised to improve the quality of education in schools of Islamabad.