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KARACHI: While the mercury shot up to 36 degrees Celsius on Saturday, the young visitors to the 23rd Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) were found as much enthusiastic about the fun-filled learning activities, lively discussions, theatrical performances and books on its concluding day as they had been on the first day.

The rooms allotted at the Dawood Public School for different sessions of the programme were chock-full without a chance of finding empty space.

The day began with an open mic session where children were given a chance to come and express themselves through poetry and prose and was a big hit with children of all ages.

Next was a play by Tehreek-i-Niswan titled “Burhiya ki Pitari”, a gripping tale with the supernatural making an appearance, and greedy protagonists trying to outwit each other in search for treasure. The actors made sure the play was interactive with the crowd and adults were also entertained. Credit should be given to Sheema Kermani and her talented troupe for the commendable performance.

Maham Ali, who joined the CLF in 2013 and is now the CEO, spoke about battling the security threats in Karachi and convincing schools to send students to the festival. According to her, this was made possible only after working closely with the government. And all the efforts paid off, she said.

Most students in attendance on the second day of the CLF were from government schools with humble backgrounds.

An addition to this year’s line-up were back to back sessions by Science Fuse, an endeavour by UK-based Lalarukh Malik. “Feel the force” presented children with concepts of science in an interactive and fun presentation by using props and vivid demonstrations. The popularity of the session eventually resulted in a long line of students patiently waiting outside the room to join in the fun.

Malik spoke about the conceptualisation of Science Fuse that is a social enterprise and aims to “change how science is perceived and practiced in Pakistan by giving students the chance to be the scientist.”

Her presentation included exploring Newton’s three laws of motion which were done with the aid of a puppet and eager young volunteers from the audience. Amid bursts of laughter, amazing realisations of how scientific concepts work and a whole lot of fun, the interactive session was simply exceptional. And the feedback from the parents who were witness to the amazement of their children was to plead other teachers to adopt a similar approach to teaching.

Art was not far behind at the CLF as the organisers had invited different artists to paint murals; some painted messages of hope while others painted varied interpretations of Karachi.

Learning language through board games, storytelling sessions and acting out extempore situations were organised with famous TV artists including Samina Ahmed, Sania Saeed and Hina Khawaja Bayat in attendance. The interactive sessions by Toffee TV was also a big hit.

Another session raised awareness among children about the necessity of preserving wildlife and the country’s natural bodies, especially our national parks. A 10-minute video was screened for students that took them to the beautiful landscape of the Margalla Hills National Park, which is popular destination for tourists as well as the local population. The aim of the video was to raise awareness about how littering contributes towards the degradation of such natural sources of beauty that help regulate the earth’s temperature and are a source of oxygen. Children were enraptured with the beauty the country has to offer and the short session delivered a powerful message that will linger them for a long time.

The two-day CLF ended on a high note with Sindh Senior Minister for Education and Literacy Nisar Khuhro emphasising on the need for more such festivals to be held in different parts of the province.

On Sunday, Teacher’s Literature Festival will be held at the same venue with an aim to train teachers in the different approaches to teaching and on how to encourage critical thinking among students.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2016