Pakistani children from the province of Balochistan now have a reason to smile, thanks to a dedicated group of individuals and donors who started a project that enables children in the region to access books.
The project, which was started by Raheema Jalal as the Camel library project with her sister, a federal minister, has been in operation since August. The project was conceived after Raheema observed that children from her community were being affected by the covid restrictions that closed schools in her remote region. Raheema said she wanted the students to continue with their education during the lockdown.
Mobile library providing hope to young children
However, Balochistan is the country’s most impoverished province, with a poor road network, and streets too narrow for vehicles, which made it impossible to access her home town of mand.
Every week the camel, which is named Roshan, makes its way to Mand, a town 12 miles from the border with Iran, where it is met with excited kids eager to get their hands on new book arrivals. Children in the region are allowed to take the books home for a week, and they can change the books during Roshan’s next visit.
To operate, Roshan is able to visit four villages, and its rider is hosted by “mobilizers” in each of these villages. The mobilizers are responsible for organizing when and where the children are expected to go to collect the books. They are also tasked with ensuring that Roshan’s rider has a safe place to sleep, before proceeding to the next village.
Fazul Bashir, a coordinator for the library said that parents and kids were excited about the project which was giving hope to children and providing an avenue for them to continue with their education.
Balochistan has one of the lowest female literacy rates, which stands at 24 percent, in the world. the male literacy level stood at 56 percent. The region also has the highest number of school dropouts in Pakistan, and with the covid crisis which has led to students staying out of school, fear about students not returning to classes is real.
The mobile library project, however, is proving a success by keeping children engaged in learning.
The books are donated by Alif Laila Book Bus Society which also operates mobile rickshaw libraries in the city of Lahore.