Islamabad: On Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016, Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan (AKES,P) and Aga Khan Foundation, Pakistan (AKF (Pak)) organised a Knowledge Sharing Seminar to discuss their learnings from the project Reading for Children (RfC).
Held at Serena Hotel, Islamabad, the seminar was attended by Secretary Education, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), Mr Sanaullah, GB’s Director Planning for Academics, Mr Abdul Hakeem, as well as representatives from Global Affairs Canada, Australian High Commission, Australian Aid, Plan International, and Children’s Global Network, Pakistan, among others.
The seminar started with a welcome address by the CEO AKES,P, Farhan Bhayani, who stressed on the need for organisations to share their learnings so that together they develop best practices. The address was followed by a presentation by Dr Jamila Razzaq, education advisor at AKF (Pak), who spoke about Aga Khan Development Network’s experience with RfC in the global context, including in Kyrgyzstan, where the programme was piloted, Tajikistan, Mali, Uganda, Kenya, India and Bangladesh, among other countries.
Dr Razzaq stressed on the importance of evidence and research, and spoke about the findings from different countries. Across the countries where RfC has been implemented, more than 800 mini-libraries have been established in schools, homes, community centres and places of worship. In all of these places, the programme has resulted in better access to age-appropriate books, increased parental awareness about the importance of reading to and with children, and increased confidence in parents and caregivers about their ability to support their children’s learnings.
Speaking at the seminar, the Secretary Education GB, Sanaullah, stressed on the challenges of grappling with multiple languages in Pakistan, and the need to continue with reading initiatives. He appreciated the efforts for inculcating learning habits among children.
Explaining the implementation of RfC in GB, Project Coordinator Razia Sultana said that in one year, libraries were established in 49 schools, reading facilitators trained in each of these schools, parents and communities educated about the importance of reading, and 41 Reading Skills Competitions organised, which were attended by community members, parents, children, and teachers. Sultana added that the schools with libraries act as a resource hub for surrounding schools, which means that students from other schools also access those libraries.
Sharing some figures, Sultana said that about 35,000 illustrated story books as well as reference books have been made available through the libraries, more than 1,000 mini-libraries have been established by parents, more than 16,000 people have become library members, and more than 78,000 books have been borrowed.
The presentations were followed by a panel discussion on “The Significance of Reading Skills: Learnings from the Field”. The panel was moderated by Dr Munira Amirali, Senior Manager Academics at AKES,P, while Dr Faheem Abbasi, Reading Improvement Specialist at USAID’s Pakistan Reading Project, Nadya Karim Shaw, Country Representative for World Learning, Abdul Jahan, Executive Director at the Mountain Institute for Education and Development, and Dr Muneeza Shams, Senior Manager Academics at AKES,P, were the panelists.
The panelists discussed the importance of government support for the sustainability of reading projects, and the significance of reading and learning in the mother tongue.
RfC is a component of the Strengthening Teacher Education in Pakistan programme. Commenced last year in March, RfC is concluding at the end of February this year. Funded by Global Affairs Canada and Aga Khan Foundation, Canada, RfC is implemented in 5 districts of Gilgit-Baltistan: Ghanche, Diamer, Hunza, Nagar and Ghizer.