KARACHI: Instead of the old themes of ghosts, spirits and folk wisdom, contemporary stories revolve around food shortages and the lack of money to pay school dues, pointed out Sindhi author and children’s publisher Zaffar Junejo on Friday. “The stories reflect the themes of the day and age.”
He was speaking at a session titled ‘Children’s Literature and Theatre in Sindhi’ at the 16th Children’s Literature Festival at the Arts Council, Karachi. “If we can sustain an ideology that rejects extremism and violence for 10 years in a row, Sindh will be rewarded with a new generation that is rooted to its culture and is also more open to accepting other cultures,” Junejo asserted.
“The present Sindhi curriculum taught in schools is Sindhi for dead people; the Sindhi books are country-specific when they should be more generic,” he explained. “Our syllabus talks about a Pakistan that exists in isolation, without neighbours to interact with or learn from.” To fill this gap, Junejo said that he had chosen 400 children’s books out of which 36 have been published and widely appreciated so far.
Sharing the history of Sindhi literature, he pointed out that children’s literature emerges once the language itself has evolved. “Although mothers narrated folktales to their children from the times of the Caliphate in Baghdad, the recording of children’s literature did not come into prominence until 1933,” he said.
Responding to a question about the widespread presence of madrassas across the province, Junejo commented that these were indeed troubled times for Sindh. “We have always lived under the misconception that Sindhi culture is secular and Sufi,” he remarked. “The situation is much graver than what we hear.”
He added that including translated works of creative writing into the Sindhi curriculum and storytelling in festivals can erase some of the challenges posed by the mainstream school curriculum.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2015.