[symple_box] International columnist, political analyst and senior journalist Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui’s articles are published across Asia, Africa and Europe. He writes for The Moroccan Times, The Tunis Times, India Tomorrow, Kohram News, The Etemaad Urdu Daily and for news papers published from Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. You can follow him on Twitter at: @journopolana[/symple_box]
MUSCAT, Oman – The United States of America (U.S.A) – the most developed nation on the planet earth is celebrating the National Library Week from April 10 — 16, 2016. A library is the best place to be in after a mother’s lap for all the learning experiences it offers. It is said — Reading Maketh a Man. In the changing realities of the modern world, our perceptions regarding education have changed too. Education has been reduced to marks and grades. Reading habits of people are dying down due to the onslaught of multi-media, video games, WhatsApp and what not?
In the developing countries, not much is spent on education and health in the family and national budgets. But some individuals and groups have ventured to promote education in their own humble way in spite of the limited resources at their disposal. They inspire little children to flock to libraries. There are not many children’s libraries in the world though this is an age of specialization. People prefer to have overflowing wardrobes with designer clothes but not even one cupboard full of books in their houses.
Morocco has been in the forefront of activities connected with education and knowledge over the past many centuries. Moroccan scholars and experts in different fields have been bringing laurels to the Arab world. Every century has produced Ibn Batutas in different fields. All this would not have been possible without libraries. Morocco boasts of some of the oldest libraries in the world. There is a need for more libraries to cater to the growing population. The light of knowledge is far more pronounced in the historical city of Fez these days. In January 2015, a group of people in a neighborhood came together to start a library for children at Talaa Sghira in Fez.
The focus was on pre-readers and developing readers specifically up to the age of 14 year-old children. The library aims to provide a welcoming place where children have easy access to age and culturally appropriate books and resources. Here they browse and read books at the library, participate in Story Time where volunteers read aloud to a small group, as well as borrow books to take home to read and share with their families. The library is open from 10 a.m to 7 p.m. But the library is facing many challenges as far as the infrastructural facilities and finances are concerned. Every day dozens of kids who want to come in the library are turned away for want of space. The library is only able to accommodate twelve children at a time due to tiny space. About 400 children a month can use the library. Bigger space and expanded hours of operation are needed.
The library has developed a simple system to manage attendance: the children come to the library the day before to get a ticket which they present for admittance at their reserved entry time on the appointed day. The authorities, the philanthropists and the United Nations International Children’s Educational Fund (UNICEF) and those who hold education dear should come forward to support the Fez Medina Children’s library in a big way to inculcate and sustain reading habit in our future generation.
Schools will be closing for summer vacation in a month’s time. Children will be away from schools for 6 – 8 weeks. Reading proficiency becomes a casualty during this time. As Dominic Jude Hurst, who teaches English at India’s famous Good Shepherd International School in Ootacamund, Tamil Nadu, puts it succinctly: ‘Cultivating reading habit is essential to develop creative writing.’
Dr P. C Thomas, the founding Principal of the Good Shepherd School gives glimpses of his educational genius as he took pains to set up a world-class infrastructure at Good Shepherd, with not one but four libraries in the sprawling campus! The four libraries are located in different sections of the school. The collection includes books, newspapers, magazines, kindles, desktop computers, reference materials, CDs and DVDs. The students are encouraged to cultivate good reading habits and to use the library as an important center for learning. The school has exemplary library facilities with over 48432 volumes of books, comprising references, prescribed texts and popular fiction. The school subscribes to over 14 newspapers, 125 magazines and periodicals, both Indian and foreign. It is equipped with a computerized data base, enabling the students to have an easy and quick access to the necessary books. The libraries are well-lit. In fact, there are wall-length glasses instead of walls! The ambience motivates to read more and more.
If we have a cursory glance at Europe, Scotland leads the world as far as empowerment of children, promoting literacy and reading habits are concerned. The Government of Scotland came up with a unique proposal in 2015. It offered library membership to children from birth itself! This way no child will be devoid of education.
Investment in education is the best investment. Libraries foster educational achievement and excellence. The best offering or donation after food is giving away a book to a needy child or donating books or money to upgrade infrastructure and buy books for a library. Fez Medina Children’s Library in Morocco deserves a helping hand. With about 70% literacy level in Morocco, more number of libraries and schools are needed to achieve 100% literacy.