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FASCINATING can perhaps be the most appropriate adjective when one listens to a nine-year-old kid sharing his inspirations for the first book he wrote. His passion for an animal (dinosaur) long disappeared from the memory of homo sapiens, his research for themes and illustrations, the use of characters from real life and the need for courage, care and compassion so critical in life are remarkable.

Yes, it was the book launch of Asas Hussain’s “Cephalo the Daring Dinosaur” at the Children's Literature Festival (CLF), Islamabad this past week.The book launch was moderated by Rumana Husain with Asas on skype from Austin Texas, where he is currently based. Ameena Saiyid, Basarat Kazim and Anusha Asghar – an 11-year old author, were the panelists in front of a packed audience comprising children, teachers and parents.

Both maternal and paternal grandmothers were proudly present at the launch as they engaged with Asas on skype sharing how stories made up by grandmothers had an influence on the writing of the book.

Anusha too read out excerpts from her manuscript as she shared that she was still anxiously searching for publishers for her two books. The CLF organisers -- Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi and Oxford University Press -- have vowed that they will continue to promote many Asas and Anushas!

At CLF Islamabad, more than 20 books for children were launched at the Rahman Baba Book Launch Lounge at Pak-China Friendship Centre. The books included Rani and the Flood, Akhtar Hamid Khan by Rumana Husain, Bano Billoo and Amai: the paper doll book by Fauzia Minallah; Irgit Girgit translated by Basarat Kazim; the Children's History Series: Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa; The Tyranny of Language by Zubeida Mustafa translated in Punjabi by Sanjh Publications; Oxford Reading Treasure: an interactive session; Interactive CDs by OUP; and the launch of Uran Tashtaree (flying saucer) the bi-monthly magazine for children 6-14 under the umbrella of the CLF.

‘Laddu is Born’ based on the legendary character Miffy (‘Nijntje’ in Dutch), created by Dutchman Dick Bruna. Laddu, the new character, symbolises the cooperation and friendship between Pakistan targeting age group 3-5 years. The Netherlands Ambassador, Scheltema said “Nijntje has found a new friend in Pakistan, ‘Laddu’, and she loves books! The Laddu book will help children learn the skills important for future reading.”

Dr Shahid Siddiqui worked with over 40 children on writing poetry where many children wrote amazing pieces of inspiration.

CLF organiser Baela Jamil says the festival was rich, engaging and imaginative for over 25,000 children who visited from all over the country and particularly the twin cities. In 2013-14 CLF season, she says, at least four books will be published under the CLF label. She says the CLF will also be expanded to many more districts and school clusters.

THE Alif Laila Book Bus Society (ALBBS) last week organised a focused group dialogue on “Education Technologies-prospects and current situation” to share experiences and challenges in developing digital means to make classroom lessons interesting and interactive.

Society’s representative Aysha Jabbar informed the participants that the society in collaboration with Ilm Ideas was working on a project “Digital Means” aimed at producing and field testing digital lessons based on Grade-IV and V national curriculum for public school teachers and students.

Initially, she said, the society was working on developing digital learning content for 15 lessons especially English language – a bit difficult for teachers. She said the digital content would help schoolteachers disseminate lessons in activity-based manner.

The representatives from public- and private-sector organisations and those working on technology-based solutions shared their experiences and challenges as well as highlighted success stories. They stressed the need to focus on success stories and learning through best practices.

The participants also called for using experiences and work done by different organisations instead of indulging in re-inventing the wheel at an individual level.

They shared learning and insights from initiatives and projects being undertaken at the primary level in the field of education technologies and discussed ideas towards developing synergies for devising a strategy for up-scaling initiatives at the provincial level.

Ms Jabbar said the Book Bus Society would initially work with government as well as NGOs-run and private schools, where computer labs would be available.

School Education Department Additional Secretary Afshaan Kiran Imtiaz expressed her keen interest in education technology initiatives.

LIKE previous years, the schoolteachers are not happy with the annual training sessions and blame the Directorate of Staff Development for not considering their problems.

The Punjab Teachers Union office-bearers have described the DSD training, beginning on Monday (today), as “Anti-Teacher Training”. PTU central president Sajjad Akbar Kazmi alleges that the directorate administration has issued training schedules at places miles away from teachers’ homes without offering due facilities of transport or honorarium to meet travel and lodging costs.

He says the DSD organises training during summer vacation, when loadshedding makes weather unbearable. “The DSD intentionally issues such schedules that provoke teacher unions to boycott training,” Mr Kazmi alleges.

The PTU president has called upon the school education department secretary to make training a “happier endeavour” instead of a tough job for schoolteachers. He says the teachers may be called for training near their homes, offered TA/DA according to government rules and ensure generators and cold drinking water at cluster training centres.

DSD Programme Director Nadeem Irshad Kiyani says the directorate traces teachers who are weak in different areas and impart training during summer vacation to upgrade their skills. “The DSD does not disturb teachers, when they are busy in classroom teaching,” he says.

He says the directorate is holding 15-day training sessions to ensure that teachers should learn and strengthen their capacities to impart quality education to their pupils at their respective schools. He says cluster centres are being established in tehsils to ensure that teachers should not travel much to reach their centres.

During the last three years, Mr Kiyani says some 563,200 teachers belonging to different cadres, paper-setters, examiners and education managers have been imparted training. —