The Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) was held in the Walled City of Lahore in January, on the theme of “Celebrating peace, heritage and 70 years of Pakistan”.
CLF aims to develop the reading habits of children by familiarising them with book culture. Different sessions such as storytelling, theatre, music, literature and sports were held by the historical Lahore Fort.
I believe that we require a mix of culture and education in order to provide a better quality of education.
This would improve the level of learning in metropolitan cities such as Lahore, a lack of which has previously been an issue. Promotion of reading and books is a way to move towards a better future.
I was given the opportunity to implement a “Sports for Development and Peace”(SDP) campaign at CLF. I held multiple sessions with children to teach them different values through sport. They learned peace, tolerance, respect, responsibility, trust and inclusion through different team-based activities.
Reading and writing are essential for moving towards a better future — Photo credit: Umair Asif
During these activities, children learned respect for their teammates, which in turn helped the success of their team. They also learned responsibility, which helps them to become a valued part of society in the long term.
The values of trust and inclusion teaches children how to trust their peers and include isolated people in society.
Trust helps you to make friends and gives you the confidence to learn and achieve things in your life. Inclusion helps you to promote equality and include people despite differences – for example, including physically-challenged children in schools with other children. It also promotes gender equality.
Learning these core values at school teaches children about positive attitudes. In the future their generation will grow up differently. These values will help to eradicate extremism from grass-roots level.
The children also learned about tolerance, which promotes peace from a broader perspective. Tolerance teaches you to listen, understand and respect differences of opinion and diversity of culture and religion.
SDP activities gave the children an opportunity to learn through fun, enjoyment and following the rules of the games. Fun-based learning helps with making friends and developing personalities. The children became more focused and creative.
The festival encourages literacy skills by allowing children to learn about the importance of reading and writing — Photo credit: Umair Asif Rana
In school I learned how sports improves mental and physical health. We need to make sure our kids practise sports in schools, as healthy, creative and focused minds learn more in the classroom.
I will conclude with an example of an SDP activity from my sessions. “Fox and chicken” was one of the activities I supervised. In the activity, the group of children helped the “chicken” to escape from the “fox”.
This game develops a trust factor in the participants, as they work as a team without differences, they follow the rules (responsibility) and are all equal and respectful to each other.
Playing under these rules teaches children tolerance and how to develop their strengths.
I hope my fellow activists and civil society will play their role to include sports in the public schools of Lahore. During my visits to public primary schools in Lahore and nearby districts I witnessed that children have no facilities and opportunities to practise sports.