62nd Children’s Literature Festival kicks off in Islamabad

Islamabad (Muhammad Yasir) The two-day 62nd Children’s Literature Festival (CLF), a flagship program of civil society organization Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), kicked off with a number of interactive sessions and activities on Wednesday, October 23, at Lok Virsa, Islamabad.

The festival, being held in sponsorship with Oxford University Press (OUP) Pakistan, Open Society Foundations (OSF), Oxfam, British Council, Ittehad Steel Mills, Female Education Trust Balochistan, Sightsavers and Millennium Education, was attended by a large number of students and their parents, teachers, academics, educationists and public.

Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood inaugurated the two-day event. He appreciated CLF’s efforts for providing an inclusive learning platform for children. The festival began with National Anthem sung by students of Al Maktoon and Pehli Kiran Schools in a jam packed hall, followed by collective singing of CLF anthem ‘Humein Kitab Chahiye’ written by Zehra Nigah and composed by Rakae Jamil.

ITA CEO Baela Raza Jamil apprised the audience about the magic of CLF and how it has become a nationwide movement. She acknowledged the supporters of CLF and thanked CLF co-founder and advisor Ameena Saiyid for her active contribution to the cause of promoting learning for children.

Oxfam Pakistan’s Country Director Mohammed Qazilbash lauded ITA’s efforts in promoting a culture of creativity, learning and self-discovery among children and youth in Pakistan. He also strongly advocated for women’s empowerment through quality education for girls to enhance their participation in the social, economic and political spheres. OUP Pakistan Managing Director Arshad Saeed Husain and OSF Senior Education Officer Nargis Sultana also expressed their solidarity to CLF.

A documentary on Girls Education ‘A Dream Reignited’ was screened at the ceremony. Esteemed Urdu poet and writer Kishwar Naheed added grace to the event with her poetry on the girl child and her conversation with children.

The festival opened with multiple sessions taking place simultaneously. The first day saw Lok Virsa Theatre packed with children, where the Uncle Sargam and Gogi Show by Nigar Nazar entertained them and Theatre Wallay presented a special play on ‘Bachay Hamaray Zamanay Kay’. Khaled Anam held an interactive session ‘Dosti Kitabon Say’ with the children to promote the book reading culture.

Different activities were organized in the front courtyard named ‘Vehra Kitab Ilm-o-Adab’ where students marched for Climate Justice and Right to Education besides holding a photo walk and exhibition on ‘My City My Heritage, Ye hai Islamabad’. Celebrities, parliamentarians and authors including MNA Mehnaz Akber Aziz and Samar Minallahheld attended story telling sessions with the children.

There was also a Street Theatre in the Midst of Everything by Nadine Murtaza of HeadStart.

The White hall named after Fehmida Riaz saw panel discussions on multilingualism in children’s literature, and the role of literature and school libraries in mental growth of children, held by eminent personalities such as Zubeida Mustafa, Shahid Siddiqui, Nigar Nazar and others. Urdu and Punjabi poet and writer Sarwat Mohiuddin also held a creative writing workshop in White Hall. In the same hall, there was a Cinema Ghar where films and animations by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy Films were screened for children.

Similarly, interactive sessions and panel discussions were held in the Media Center called ‘Parveen Shakir ki Baithak’. There was an open mic session for students under an expert panel of Tahira Abdullah and Syed Nusrat Ali at the back lawn of Margalla Hills, followed by music therapy on flute by Ao Baat Karain, Dastan Goi, book reviews and discussion on developing civic sense among children with the help of stories.

The British Council Library had various activities at the Margalla’s front lawn like tiny tales, Qissa Kahani, arts and crafts, peter pan themed games, photo booth, maker-space and an exhibition of children’s book illustrations by UK Artists.

The upper deck or ‘Abdus Salam Lab’ had stalls by Ilm Association, Science Fuse, Learnobots, WonderTree and Oxbridge while the Lower Deck or ‘Bachon Kay Haqooq ka Gehwara’ had interactive stalls by ITA, book stall by OUP, mobile bus by National Book Foundation and STEM education stall by Oxfam Girls’ Education Matter.

Moreover, there were learning activities by State Bank of Pakistan, Sight Savers and stalls on inclusive learning  and face painting in the Fountain Area ‘Taxila Heights’ and a food court in the main garden. The first day ended with a mesmerizing performance by Khumariyaan the band that made the audience glued to their seats.

CLF is a social movement founded by Baela Raza Jamil of ITA and co-founded by Ameena Saiyid of Adab Festival in collaboration with a number of private and public organizations. The CLF has a nationwide footprint, having completed 61 CLFs, reaching over 1.4 million children and teachers since its inception in November, 2011.