Sindhi TV channel takes classes to where schools don’t exist but students do

Published: December 28, 2010
‘Laat’ programme teachers work through Matric syllabus, reaching oppressed girls and flood survivors. DESIGN : ANAM HALEEM

‘Laat’ programme teachers work through Matric syllabus, reaching oppressed girls and flood survivors. DESIGN : ANAM HALEEM

KARACHI: When Saqib Abro’s school shut down for more than five months after the floods washed over his tehsil Warah in Kambar, he managed to still keep up with his Matric syllabus — by watching television.

His parents could hardly object because he was actually studying, with the help of a one-hour programme that worked through the textbooks for grades IX and X. ‘Laat’ or the appropriately named show ‘Candlelight’ was the brainchild of the Sindhi-language Kawish Television Network (KTN). Its producers knew that the channel had the answer to far-flung and neglected villages in the province where schools did not exist but students did.

“There was despair and helplessness but I never felt discouraged by the lack of material resources,” said Abro. “I was steadily continuing my work.”

Laat is the first educational programme of its kind to be aired on private television in Pakistan.

The other effort in this area was taken up by Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) that ran educational TV shows on the state-run Pakistan Television for students enrolled in AIOU distance-learning programmes.

As a news channel, KTN already had the infrastructure in place and took advantage of its sister newspaper Kawish to reach and inform students about Laat. This is how Saqib found about the programme and he has been following the lectures since then. He says he particularly likes the Mathematics and Chemistry sessions and wants to become a doctor from the Larkana University of Medical Sciences. Laat has not just proven a boon for students whose schools were destroyed in the floods. Sonia Rani, a student of class X at Bahria Foundation College in Kandhiaro, was completely lost when her class teacher explained the chapter on logarithms. “I only understood it on Laat properly,” she told The Express Tribune. In fact, when she and her classmates sometimes miss a class, they say that they are able to follow the lectures on the same programme.

Laat is aired every Monday to Friday in five subjects —Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Mathematics and English. For the convenience of the targeted students, the Sindhi-speaking young people, the lectures are delivered in Sindhi as well as English and Urdu.

Many students are particularly attracted to the use technology. Laat does not use the traditional method of reading from a textbook with a teacher’s voiceover. Instead, teachers hold live lectures and use an active board — a touch-screen board linked to their monitor – which they can write on with a pen-mouse.

The programme also uses graphics and animation to explain certain concepts.  And in order to make it interactive, students are given a number to which they can text message in their questions. The teacher then answers them in the next episode.

The programme now boasts viewership across Sindh in place such as Sukkur, Guddu, Kandiaro, Mirpurkhas, Kambhar, Shikarpur, Thatta, Warah, Larkana, Hyderabad, Shikarpur and Karachi. According to program coordinator Paaras Sattar, when they initially started they had not expected much response. But when the text messages started to come in, they realised that students were watching. She said that they have even received prank questions from certain students. One of them asked: “How many marks did Quaid-e-Azam get in Pakistan Studies”.  “At least it got them thinking,” she laughed.

Laat is not only hoping to promote education in rural parts of Sindh but also aspires to help girls who are not allowed to go to school or who cannot afford it. “From the response I can say we have achieved all of these goals,” Sattar said.

And not just students have noticed Laat. Teacher Ali Akber Sheikh, who is himself an MA student at the Shah Abdul Latif University, was pleasantly surprised by the results. “Their teaching methodology is very good and the questions and multiple-choice question format really prompts critical thinking,” he said.

KTN CEO Ali Qazi told The Express Tribune that they not only wanted to reach out to children but also wanted to put pressure on school teachers to do a better job. He is, however, disappointed by the lack of government sponsorship for the effort, essentially a state’s responsibility. “Given that we are the only channel airing a programme on education, there has been hardly any support or appreciation so far,” he said. “We have zero sponsors.” Perhaps he needs to take a page out of Abro’s book: slow and steady wins the race.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 28th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Mohammad naeem
    Dec 28, 2010 - 5:40PM

    Go0od jobRecommend

  • Haroon Rashid
    Dec 28, 2010 - 6:59PM

    Honorable Ali Qazi Sahib, Paras Sattar co-ordinator to Laat program. Best compliments on the program, which probably may lead this program for a Nobel laureate in literacy, in trying conditions, for your initiative.
    I noticed the first step towards national literacy, and all by KTN. Lots of things have come up today whereby this program will go further with the infrastructure, building blocks that exists in Pakistan with the level of literacy, education in Pakistan a lot of work has to be done. Let all the nation join hands with the great name KTN on this. With just inches away from digitalisation of television broadcast/transmission and availability of mobile internet available for just Rs.200– per month for almost unlimited use we can go beyond the moon, with sincere efforts like yourselves. Congratulations to you, your organisation, your team and all at Laat, and KTN. God bless you.Recommend

  • Pir Amjad Ali
    Dec 28, 2010 - 7:11PM

    My work is the only ground I’ve ever had to stand on. I seem to have a whole superstructure with no foundation but I’m working on the foundation.
    Marilyn Monroe Recommend

  • Sufi
    Dec 28, 2010 - 8:05PM

    Good job! We must take care of these things since the government ignores them. Goverment would rather spend money on military than education. Recommend

  • sidrah roghay
    Dec 28, 2010 - 8:42PM

    developmental journalism is the need of time!!good job samia!!Recommend

  • Riaz Pirzada
    Dec 29, 2010 - 12:49AM

    Surprised to know that such education in Pakistan has been initiated in Sindh only!
    Well done KTN’s Mr. Kazi. Imagine, what a one man can do, if he is sincere with his viewers/ nation. This is great idea to educate the nation. As regards to formal education of Sindh, it is surprising that primary teacher in Sindh is getting almost the same wages of Beacon House Schools but standard stands totally unbalance…
    I see future of Sindh very bright as potential is there and positive change will be occured as the same is directed by leadership
    Technology and Transportation has made this world global village, and positive change has been made so easy to be occured, just with sincere efforts of leadership and Mr. Kazi is emerging leader as well.Recommend

  • Ali Zaidi
    Dec 29, 2010 - 7:13AM

    Well done folks! Your example should be followed by others too.Recommend

  • Zakir
    Jan 2, 2011 - 7:53PM

    …and here’s the link to the companion website for LAAT with streaming videos to all episodes and corresponding lesson plans, MCQs:

  • Jan 8, 2011 - 6:33PM

    This is only educational programme that is telecast in national langauge so it means all nation can take benefit from it.Recommend

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