Dreamers indeed have their unique ways of actualising their ambitions.
Saeed A. Malik decided to act on his dream of “educating the young generation and infusing them with knowledge” after serving as an international civil servant with the United Nations for over 25 years. His aim was to provide children with books that entertain, inform, and evoke their curiosity; helping them develop awareness of the world around them, while fostering questioning minds and promoting tolerance.
Malik’s novel initiative comes as the launch of a mobile library for children, called the Bright Star Mobile Library (BSML). The library is presently established inside two vans that carry over 1,000 books and patrol primary and junior schools in the rural areas of Islamabad, keeping vigilant for prospective borrowers and learners.
Malik, the founder of BSML, said that according to a survey he conducted in schools of Islamabad Capital Territories (ICT), over 80 per cent of primary and junior schools of rural areas had no library facility for its students. BSML will bring library services to the door step of these schools and provide the students with access to books, developing and promoting reading habits among the youngsters right from the primary education level, said Malik.
“I had a choice to either live a luxurious life by spending the bulk of my pension or serve the country which has given me a lot. My motivation was to pay back my country with a new beginning,” said Malik. He said he was inspired by the Mobile Library of the San Francisco Public Library during a visit, and he decided to introduce a similar project in Pakistan to facilitate poor students. He returned to Pakistan and discussed the idea with his likeminded friends, whose support helped establish the BSML trust.
“The intention is not a business, but to contribute to society while understanding that education is the key to positive change,” he added.
BSML has start its activities by providing a mobile library facility to 14 government schools in rural areas of the capital, while complete activities will be formally launched by October this year. There are currently two mobile libraries set up in two vehicles donated by the World Food Program, in which volunteers of BSML visit schools turn by turn to teach schoolchildren how to read books.
To build interest in the students, BSML has started providing books with child interest, including storybooks, colouring books and singing books, among others. Presently the mobile library has 1,000 books while an additional 1,000 will be added by February.
Malik said that during his survey of schools in the rural areas of ICT, only 15 per cent of the schools had books, which remained locked in a small single cabin inside the offices of vice-principals. “In our society, can any student dare to go to the vice principal’s office and read a book there?” he questioned.
Malik said that Asian Foundation, San Francisco Public Library and Pakistani civil society in the United States have promised full support for the cause. He also urged people who are retired from service and want to contribute towards the betterment of society to volunteer and fund the cause. He was hopeful that the project would be expanded in other parts of the country.
He also praised the support of government departments, except former Federal Directorate of Education Deputy General Shaheen Khan, who, “For the last six months, was reluctant to grant permission to mobile library team to visit schools”.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 13th, 2011.
Correction: An earlier version of this story put the name of the founder, Saeed A. Malik as "Tahir Saeed," the error is regretted.