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QUETTA, Sept 14: Narration of stories in local languages and poetry recital on Thursday and Friday served to lift the pall of grief and gloom hovering over the city since long.

A two-day literature festival aimed at developing creativity and reading habits among children was organised by Idara Taleem-o-Aagahi and Oxford University Press (OUP) in collaboration with the Foundation Open Society Institute and the Balochistan government.

Some 5,000 students from public and private institutions and seminaries participated in the programme.

A student of Turbat Government Girls School, Shaheena Shaheen, told Dawn that the festival gave the students an opportunity to enjoy the pleasantries Nature had granted. Children in other parts of the province should also be given a chance to enjoy it, she added.

Ali and Jalal, students from Gwadar and Turbat, said the event reinvigorated in them the spirit to pursue education and hoped that it would help students to prove their mettle.

Investment in children was the best means to secure one’s future, Managing Director, OUP, Ameena Saiyid said during the inaugural session of the festival. Books being best mentors teach children what human beings were incapable of delivering.

Reading habits open vistas of comprehension, information, knowledge and literary abilities in children, she said.

Balochistan Sports and Culture Minister Mir Shahnawaz Marri lauded the OUP and provincial education department for arranging the festival and said that it would encourage future generation in utilizing their arts and literary skills in a better way, besides removing fear and awe, they were struggling with in these uncertain conditions.

He asked the media to also highlight healthy activities taking place here instead of concentrating only on negativities.

Mr Marri endorsed the steps taken by the education department and announced to support it.

Secretary Education Munir Ahmed Badini, also a prominent writer hinted at including children’s festival in provincial education plan. He promised to allocate budget for the encouragement of young writers and artists. “From now onwards, every school will have a library to unlock the power of reading among its students,” he said.

Ms Zubaida Jalal, former federal minister expressing dissatisfaction over educational facilities blamed polarization for isolating ethnic Baloch, Pashtun and other tribes living in the province. She was optimistic that such festivals would cultivate reading habits in children and motivate them to write and compete with others. The process will bring them on a single platform.

Arts and craft work of children were displayed by their respective schools besides an exhibition of the work of Akran Dost, Head of Fine Arts Department, Balochistan University was also arranged.

The two-day festival featured reading, storytelling, creative writing, book reviews, poetry session, theatre, book fair, stage plays, music and traditional dances.

Among others who attended the festival included journalists Zubaida Mustafa, Ghazi Salahuddin and Khursheed Hyder, poet Fahmida Riaz, singer and artist Khalid Anam and social worker Fauzia Minalla.