When my daughter was at the age where she began to take an interest in television, I went through many popular TV shows for children (even bought a book on pop culture for kids) to select an educational and enlightening program for her to watch so at least she’ll learn something while being entertained.
The upside was that there was a wide variety to choose, from the Muppets of Sesame Street to the tiny explorer Dora, with a penchant for adventure and teaching Spanish. She eventually settled for Barney (the big purple dinosaur from most of our nightmares) who teaches the kids the importance of please and thank you along with some basic alphabets and numbers.
The downside, apart from her choosing a character as annoying as Barney, was that there was no children’s show available that represented our culture, our values and our identity as Pakistanis. Having lived abroad most of her early years, this thought would occur to me time and time again, that she would grow up without the slightest idea of the real Pakistan, its trials and tribulations and its history that makes us who we are. And then, I came across ‘Quaid Sey Baatien’.
When I first saw the endearing little female protagonist of the show, wearing a shalwar kameez, in earnest dialogue with the Quaid, I was spellbound. In a three and a half minute animation video, Zainab has a dialogue with the Quaid in her dream about a fragmented Pakistan and issues of equality, where the Quaid ends it with a very important statement, “Yeh faisla tumhe khud karna hoga Zainab” (You must decide for yourself what is right). Imagine my excitement at discovering this show that embodies the essence of Pakistan and all that it entails, that I ended up meeting the creator of the show Daniyal Noorani and the educational material developer Zahra Saleha Ahmad along with their extremely talented team at their studio where all the magic happens.
We often lament that the phenomena of ‘brain drain’ is all too common in Pakistan. Bright young individuals leave the country to study in the best institutions, never to return and give back to the society. But Daniyal and Zahra break the stereotype as Daniyal has studied and lived in America, to go on to one of the best business schools in the world, INSEAD, while Zahra is a Fulbright scholar from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Quaid Say Baatein (QSB) was Daniyal’s brainchild where he wanted to create an animation that would incorporate the most effective education techniques to reach out to children and instill the values that every Pakistani child should essentially have. His ultimate goal is to use these videos to create detailed lesson plans around each of them and introduce them into the mainstream curriculum in the school systems, public and private.
Both Daniyal and Zahra are of the opinion that our school systems lack the content to instill ethics and civic responsibility in the children. With this program he hopes to touch upon topics like cleanliness, social inequity, being proactive when faced with a problem, and intolerance, which when inculcated in children at an early stage can have a transformative effect. Another aspect that they focus on is developing critical thinking in a system that is still largely dominated by rote learning. The main character Zainab is always questioning and inquisitive and demands logic and reason for things she does not fully comprehend.
This is where Zahra steps in as the educational consultant for the program building the lesson plans around the videos. An educator by profession and passion, while at Harvard she was introduced to the world of arts in education and the importance of using theatre, music and arts for effective education and communication. When she returned to Pakistan, she joined the team of QSB a year ago and that’s when they started production. Through QSB, Zahra hopes to utilize her knowledge as an educator, to create an effective educational tool so that schoolchildren across Pakistan can benefit from it.
Animation has come a long way since Commander Safegaurd first took over our movie channels. Ventures like ‘Burka Avengers’ and ‘Teen Bahadur’ have gained international recognition and appreciation. A whole month of hard work goes behind creating a high quality, three-minute animation video and hats off to this team of just ten talented and ethnically diverse animators, who have made this project possible. Pakistan is full of talented individuals waiting for the opportunity to create something meaningful like the QSB project and it is important that young people realize their potential and utilize the available resources.
QSB already has a great social media presence and airs on a major TV network. The short size of the video enables it to be played repetitively on these channels throughout the day, as reiteration is key when introducing new concepts to younger children. If this enlightening content is introduced in mainstream education it has the potential to have a transformative impact on the way children view civic responsibility. As parents, educators and informed citizens, it is our obligation to upgrade methods of education to encompass a more holistic view of the problems and solutions for Pakistani society and Quaid Say Baatein aims to do just that.