The first-ever Laar Science Festival was kicked off at Thatta Sports Complex on Friday, December 14, with an objective of promoting a culture of inquiry and hands-on learning in the country’s education system.
The two-day festival was organized by Thar Education Alliance (TEA), Campaignistan, and Laar Education Campaign with the support of Thatta District Government and Shell Pakistan. The festival aimed at promoting STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) subjects. The theme of this landmark event was ‘Climate Change’, in order to raise awareness on the issue, as well as look for innovative ways to address it.
A recent report by Germanwatch lists Pakistan as the number 7 country that was affected most by climate change from 1997 to 2016 recently. Within Pakistan, though, Sindh is the worst affected by extreme weather events that are the classic manifestations of climate change. Changes in average weather will add another dimension to the future growth of Sindh, given its high vulnerability.
The Laar Science Festival was inaugurated by Dr Nawaz Sogho, Deputy Commissioner of Thatta and Senator Sassui Palijo, who also hails from Thatta. Sindh Science and Technology Minister Taimur Talpur also attended the event and praised the talent of the local students in STEAM. He promised to establish science centres in the region in collaboration with School Education and Literacy Department.
The festival showcased scientific models and projects from over 50 schools and colleges. Different sessions on climate change, STEM education and girls’ education were held at the festival to highlight the importance of these issues in Sindh’s context. Guest speakers at the festival included Afia Salam of Indus Earth Trust, Manzoor Soomro of ECOSF, Muhammad Ali Shah of Fisher Folk, environmentalist Nasir Pawar, Tufail of Sindh University (Badin), Dr Bhikaram of LUMHS and Dr Bhawani Shankar of Mehran University.
Laar Science Festival was attended by over 7,000 students, teachers, entrepreneurs, science specialists and government officials in the two days. Organizations such as Stemmers, Robotech, Pakistan Science Club, Ilm-e-Neroon and Pakistan Science Foundation also conducted live experiments at the event to boost the interest of students in science and to bridge the gap between practical studies and curriculum in schools.
Latest SAT scores indicate one of the lowest scores in maths and science for Laar region. This calls for a greater and a focused effort by the political and local district government in Thatta to organize interventions such as these to sustain their interest in these subjects.
Speakers at the festival opined that maths and science education was critical in developing the cognitive skills in children. It was also necessary to ensure that the quality of learning became a critical informant of how decisions of funding, recruitment, measurement, rewards and punishment were made by the public sector. Nations have used maths and science to empower their citizens with higher incomes, and to help grow their economies.
Partab Shivani, CEO of Thar Education Alliance and organiser of the event, said, “We started this journey from Tharparkar back in February 2018, and we continue this campaign for quality education in Pakistan.” Campaignistan CEO Farhad Ahmed Jarral said “We live in a digital age, where there is a need to connect online and offline to bring change in the education discourse, one of the examples of which is the tweet about a student (Nimra Memon) who’s project was broadcasted on social media which got appreciation from Federal Minister of Climage Change Malik Amin Aslam.”
In the lead-up to the Laar Science Festival, an assessment test for mathematics and science for students of grades VI-XII was conducted on December 9 in Badin, Sujawal and Thatta districts. Over 20,000 students participated in this test, of which the best scoring candidates were awarded prizes.