The fourth storytelling workshop for politicians under School Reading Program 2016 was held in Quetta on March 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 Education Minister of Balochistan Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal, PkMap MPA Arfa Sidduque, Additional Secretary, Secondary Education Department, Hayat Kakar, Director Schools S.M. Anwar Shah, DOE Ghuffran Ahmed, EDO Male Quetta Muteeb Khan and DDO Gul Muhammad Kakar.
Former Federal Minister for Education and Member of CLF Board of Directors Zobaida Jalal started the proceedings of the workshop. She talked about CLF’s mission to create innovative learning avenues for children, and unlock the power of reading in children, and thanked the Minister for Education Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal for his participation and assistance. She elaborated on how direct interactions between children and politicians through storytelling sessions enable the politicians to see and understand children’s needs and requirements inside the classroom first-hand.
Alif Ailaan Campaign Manager for Political Advocacy Salman Naveed spoke of the existing challenges in the education sector; reflected upon the enduring impact of the storytelling sessions held previously, and the role politicians could play in bringing the necessary changes to improve education by spending quality time with children in schools. Minister for Education Abdul Rahim Ziaratwal began his speech by acknowledging Balochistan’s as well as Pakistan’s declining state of education, owing to a lack of seriousness on the administrative front. Referring to the MDGs that Government of Pakistan espoused to achieve by 2015, the Minister stated that Pakistan failed to do so and encouraged the audience to give their input for the way forward. Whilespeaking about the latest enrolment campaign initiated by Government of Balochistan, he also addressed socio-economic factors in the province that prevent parents from enrolling their children in schools in the first place, and how they reduce job prospects for even the skilled youth. Moreover, he assured his Ministry’s full support for the program and offered to work closely with the organisers to develop solutions to solve the education crisis in Balochistan in terms of teachers’ trainings and curriculum development that fulfil the prerequisites of the globalised world.
Trainer for the workshop, Waleed Anwar, began his training session with describing the development of languages through stories and how stories have always been a source of hope and optimism for young minds. He outlined the important tactics for effective storytelling and how to gauge a child’s attention and trigger his/her imagination through examples and enactments. He briefly highlighted ASER 2015 data on learning levels and read the story ‘Siyana Bhulakkar’ about a young boy who experiences mishaps and misadventures due to his short-term memory while he is out in the city for grocery shopping. Closing remarks of the workshop were given by Ms. Zobaida Jalal; she requested the Ministry of Education to take ownership of SRP2016 and have MNAs/MPAs from all 32 districts of Balochistan to visit schools for storytelling sessions. The Minister also spoke towards the end, reiterating on the urgency of fixing Balochistan’s education system but also being fully conscious of the infrastructural challenges that confront a nomadic society as that of Balochistan. In addition, he talked about introducing new accountability system in the province for teachers by which teachers’ salaries would be deducted if students’ performances do not appear to improve; Balochistan Education Endowment Fund; and tasking special committees to visit all schools in all districts to report on the status of education and the Ministry will be making the report public by end of March.
Responding to a question from the media, he clarified that there are only 4 districts that fall in the winter zone that have not received textbooks for the new academic year in schools. He appealed to the audience to focus their energies on working for the cause of education and asked for help from all stakeholders present at the event on the matter. He termed sending teachers to schools as necessary as sending children to school because recruiting capable, competent headmasters is one of the hurdles that the government is currently facing. Moreover, he acknowledged the interest expressed by religious parties lately to facilitate the government in its efforts and also that the government has been receiving an enthusiastic response by people from different walks of life in the province with respect to education, which is a marked shift from the general attitude of resistance the public has known to hold in the past. He suggested to adopt practical, serious measures to go forward, and promised to provide for quality education by all means.