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PESHAWAR: Ministers, politicians, local government officials and education managers from across the province participated in a storytelling workshop held here on Thursday under the School Reading Programme 2016 – a project of Children’s Literature Festival and Alif Ailaan.

The programme was aimed at ensuring that poor learning outcomes and quality of education begin to occupy increased space in the education discourse by engaging politicians, local government officials and education managers with children studying in primary government schools through the art of storytelling, says a statement issued here.

Among participants were PPP Senator Rubina Khalid, PTI MNA Sajid Nawaz, PTI MPAs Shaukat Yousafzai and Arif Yousaf, and Peshawar district naib nazim Qasim Ali Shah.

Facilitator for the workshop Mustafa Shahbaz briefed participants about the poor learning levels of primary students in the country.

He said at national level, 49pc of Class 5 students were unable to read English sentences; 50pc could not do the simple two-digit division, and 55pc weren’t able to read Urdu stories, all meant for Class 2.

While a provincial comparison of learning levels showed that KP ranked below 50pc in all three categories of ‘Class 5 students who can read a story in Urdu’, ‘who can read sentences in English’ and ‘who can do two-digit math,’ according to Annual Status of Education Report 2015.

Noting the importance of storytelling in generating a child’s interest to know and learn more, the participants were educated on the techniques of storytelling through the reading of ‘Sakhi Darakht,’ a tale signifying our dependence on nature.

The politicians were encouraged to narrate stories of their own based on a similar theme, and re-enact scenes from the story to show how they would be conducting their storytelling sessions with children in schools in upcoming days and weeks.

At the end of the workshop, all participants pledged to visit government schools to hold storytelling sessions with children to bring quality of education to the forefront of the government’s agenda.

Senator Rubina Khalid said storytelling was such a strong medium but people didn’t use it and thus, limiting the potential of the future generations.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2016