Every now and then we read a story that reaffirms our faith in the goodness of human nature. This story comes from the war torn Carribean country- Colombia.
Almost every weekend for the past decade Lois Soriano has followed the same routine. He gathers his two donkeys in front of his house. He straps pouches with the word “Biblioburro” painted in blue letters to the donkeys’ backs” Then he loads them “with an eclectic cargo of books destined for people living in the small villages beyond.”
His students wait for him on his way. They are impatient to hear him read stories from the books that he brings them. They will read the books themselves afterwards.
“I started out with 70 books, and now I have a collection of more than 4,800,” said Mr. Soriano, 36, a primary school teacher who lives in a small house here (in La Gloria, Colombia) with his wife and three children, with books piled to the ceilings. “
“The idea came to him, he said, after he witnessed as a young teacher the transformative power of reading among his pupils, who were born into conflict even more intense than when he was a child.”
Here is a link to a clip about the donkey bookmobile. It makes for really interesting viewing!
This story reminded me of a project started by an NGO- the Jan Kalyan Samiti– in the Districts of Thane and Kalyan here in Maharashtra.
In the tribal areas of these districts the only schools are the ones run by the Zilla Parishads. There is generally a shortage of teachers trained to teach science subjects. Their science laboratories are often not well-equipped.
So the idea for a mobile science laboratory was born.
In 1990 a project was started with just one volunteer- the enthusiastic Shrirang Pimpalikar. The project started from one town and covered more and more schools every year. Currently it encompasses seven districts and 250 schools.
He teaches the children science experiments. They are allowed to do the experiments themselves, too. This helps them to understand the subject and build up their confidence. This also enables them to develop the scientific temperament necessary to understand today’s modern technologies.
The efforts by Pimplikar Sir to take scientific experiments to students in the tribal areas are much appreciated by the students as well as the teaching staff of these schools.
Students that benefited from this Mobile laboratory have later come forward to participate in this project, enabling the mobile lab to go to more and more schools.
[Biblioburro photo: Scott Dalton for The New York Times
Mobile Laboratory photos: Jan Kalyan Samiti Publications]