Walking Libraries and Laboratories on Wheels

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.

In the beginning Pimplikar Sir would take his science apparatus from school to school in an auto rickshaw. After a few years a Jeep was acquired for this purpose.

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]

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9 thoughts on “Walking Libraries and Laboratories on Wheels”

  1. HAd a huge grin at the sight of the Donkey :Dcoz in India Donkeys are not associated with wisdom at all :))irony eh?:)and stupid name calling too:D poor donkey I think sometimes…all that tum gadhe ho is dumb :))the Biblioburro is so cute :)))and hats off to dedicated people like Loris Sariano :))Pimplikar Sir is an inspiration too!those beautiful sepia toned pics brought the story alive somehow:)I too knew a teacher like this 🙂 She had a knack making us learn new things:))thanks for sharing MAnju:)PS:-your new header is beautiful!all of them are actually:))

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  2. Sraboney- Yes, more people like these two would make the world a better place!Indyeah- The donkey makes the story more touching, somehow. Isn’t it wonderful that this young teacher used whatever means were available to bring books to the youngsters in the tiny villages?Vinodji- Yes, isn’t it!

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  3. Such an inspiring post! It is amazing to see how much that teacher cares to make a difference -single handedly… It is really remarkable. You know , I was impressed by the fact that they have a library service in hospitals here, in the UK. I was pleasantly surprised when they carted a bookcase full of books to each person in the ward 🙂 But then again – this is a developed country with enough and more resources.. Such stories from war torn countries make it so much more inspiring!

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  4. One cannot admire enough, the initiative, dedication and sense of awareness of society, that both these people have. I have immense respect fot Mr Soriano and Pimplikar Sir. Unfortunately, in our country, being a teacher is not considered a smart choice. It is assumed that you are there because doors never opened for you in “industry”. All the more reason to applaud the choice made by these gentlemen. And the children they have taught are very lucky children….Thank you for posting this.

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  5. Smitha- A library service in hospitals is a great idea! In India so much money goes waste because of government or bureaucratic apathy when it could be used on such schemes.Ugich Konitari- You are right, young people are not encouraged to enter the teaching profession. It is considered less ‘prestigious’ than other choices.In reality, to mold young minds is such an important job…

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