Palak a journalism graduate believes in simplifying the complicated and writing about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. She calls herself a " hodophile" or in layman words- a person who loves to travel.
I am currently pursuing my bachelor's degree in Maharashtra's Mumbai. However, when the nationwide lockdown, to keep a check on the spread of COVID-19, was announced earlier this year, my family and I decided to take a break and visit the village in my native state.
Deora is a small village in Jale Block in Bihar's Darbhanga district. Speaking about the country's third most populous state that accommodates 99 million people, its literacy rate at 61.8% is the country's lowest. Additionally, at 51.5% the state reported the second-lowest female literacy rate, according to Census 2011. Bihar's median age, at 20, is the country's lowest – the Indian average is 26.6.
Turning the attention to my village, Deora, which stands at a total population of 3,446 persons and 631 houses. While the village literacy rate stands at 40.9%, the female literacy rate is a staggering 18.6%.
When I moved back to the village, realisation dawned on me that families with a stronger financial background have been able to migrate from rural areas for better prospects but no one was thinking about the ones who were left behind, the ones who could not afford this luxury.
I could see that the less privileged families and their children had to make difficult choices for basic facilities. They had to enroll themselves in government-run schools for subsidised fees. Many lacked access to good-quality books for classes. A lot of times, the villagers had no option but to withdraw their wards from school because they could not even afford to buy the prescribed textbooks.
Under such circumstances, students are forced to discontinue their studies and put to work in a field that has become one of the major causes of children being dragged into labour work. I have witnessed this being passed onto the successive generations in many villages which have resulted in keeping the populace economically and socially backward.
My education has helped me understand the situation and helped in investing my focus on finding solutions rather than indulging in the blame game.
I want to change this scenario, help every child who is suffering due to poverty. Education is the only tool that has the power to transform lives and I want them to have opportunities that they deserve.
Hence, as a first step towards empowering the youth of my village, I want to start a community library that will be equipped with free course textbooks, additional support books to all children from class 1st to 12th, and study material for competitive exams aspirants.
To push the idea of reading and encourage people from all walks of life including children and young adults to get into the habit of making books a part of their lives, the Maulana Azad community library will stock books pertaining to the school boards in the state and NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) books from standard one to 12.
Besides, the library will also keep books on history, literature, and other subjects that village children can borrow. The study material for college students and those aspiring to sit for competitive exams will also be provided. The library will also have a stock of daily newspapers (Hindi and Urdu) and monthly magazines.
While striving hard to secure funds for the library, I am also toiling to get free subscriptions from various publications that would cut down the expenditure.
Apart from studies, the students would also be aided in filling out the forms for admissions and other such tasks that they may need assistance with. My vision and target for the future are to also equip the library with computers and the internet so that village children can have access to these crucial facilities as well.
Although I have been able to start the Maulana Azad library with the basic infrastructure, it still needs investment to have a proper building up and running with facilities.
Right now the library has two wooden shelves for books, one light, and a fan. I have been able to get as many as 1,000 books with the collective efforts of neighbours and villagers. While some others were purchased with my contribution and donation money.
One of the most important lessons that I learned during my college and while being involved in social work was on accountability. It is important to be transparent to earn people's trust, hence, I have also provided a break-up of the mentioned amount that would be utilised towards the fixed and variable expenses.
Flooring work: ₹4,500/-
Purchase of one fan: ₹600/-
Purchase of tube lights: ₹300/-
2 Newspaper subscriptions: ₹3,600 (yearly)
Electricity expenditure: ₹7,200 (yearly) Approx
Success Mirror magazine: ₹1,200 ( yearly)
Salary of appointed teacher for maintenance and classes: ₹36,000 (yearly)
This would amount to a total outlay of ₹53,400 and then another ₹60,000 for procuring books and study materials.
I need help in raising these funds. This community library has the potential to help children in my village to get access to a better life.
It will encourage them to not stop schooling which in turn will mean fewer children working in fields and even child marriages for a number of girls. This is a first step towards making my village better educated, empowered and developed.
For donations, please get in touch with Sadiya on her Instagram handle: @sadiyashk2001 or @maulana_azad_library
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