“A stream flowed and everything just locked off. Badly busy streets are free and having rest, every shop is closed, no feet are moving on the road and no noise is irritating the persons resting in their homes. The only sound which is being listened is of the singing of birds and the rustle of wind. Depression and panic are moving parallel with the peace and tranquility.”
History of 2020 would be written as such. Generations would recall that it was a year when something strange happened. Once again Mother Nature proved its superiority in front of so called ‘most sensible’ creatures, i.e. humans. The entire world came to a standstill only because of a small being, Coronavirus, which even can’t be seen with naked eyes.
Children and fixture are like chalk and cheese. Just staying in a same place adversely impacts children psychology, tendency, and their preference. They love to explore this mysterious world. One of the place which is said to be the foundation of child’s learning, i.e. schools, got closed. While learners were at home, schools were locked! At this juncture, it was found that children became far away from the learning and exploring process.
Note that this gap between children and their school learning was just like a coma – stopped for sometime and started again with a new method. Concept of E-learning or virtual-learning reached to thousand new learners this time. Prima-facie, this new way of learning seemed like a boat full of hope coming towards, when we are drowning in the deep ocean. But if we go through it’s core and all the dimensions, we would find that this idea is not the ideal one.
The huge economic chasm between different groups in India was and still a serious issue. At the time when thousands of children were learning from the virtual medium, millions of children were suffering for having meal a day. In this background, how we can expect these children of having so costly electronic devices? Of course not. And, they were out of learning process!
Amidst this distressed environment a hope arose. Hope from the plains, moving through the hills and travelling the woods, came across. In the foothills of the great Himalayas, a state is located named Uttarakhand. It also didn’t remain untouched with the effect of Covid-19. The school grounds, that once used to be ornamented because of the children, were deserted. However, as the saying goes “Leadership emerges in times of crisis.”
A great sense of leadership seemed in the learners of Nanakmatta Public School, Uttarakhand. They came across with an innovative idea to create alternative space for learning in their rural landscape. Learners decided to initiate ‘Community Libraries’ in their regions.
Despite a place of reading books only, these were the community centers where kids can meet, play and learn from each other. At the arrival of autumn, these learners put the foundation stone on 9 September, 2020. The first community library was started in a small village Nagla of the town Nanakmatta. This caravan continued to go on and at present 17 community libraries are operational in Nanakmatta region.
Himani, one of the leader of community library in Nagla says that, “It was our first library. We were totally unaware that what we are going to do in library. Even we didn’t know children would join us or not? But as we started, it just go on. Kids were there, we played and did interesting activities together.” This statement may not be a big deal for many of us. But if a girl who never used to talk confidently before, is saying so, it’s an achievement.
Kriti of class 10th, who is associated with this library campaign says – “Our this mission is the extension of the student and community vision of our School (Nanakmatta Public School). This campaign of community library illustrates the core values of our institution, like collaboration, communication skills, leadership etc.”
In this contemporary world, nothing is certain today. Situations are changing second by second, new possibilities are arriving and thousands of opportunities are knocking the door. To survive in this fast going world, one has to be adoptable and develop the required skills. The UN 21st Century Skills includes collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking, leadership, flexibility, social skills etc. Doesn’t it seem similar to what Kriti was talking about?
Yes it is. Leadership is emerging among these leaders. They are searching for the space where they can make their setup, mobilising kids to join and leading the space in a very democratic way. These young learners are frequently communicating with the community members, introducing the kids with creative activities, overcoming all the challenges and as a ‘social animal’ developing social skills like teamwork, flexibility etc.
The campaign of community library has given these learners a chance to spread their wings. Their collaboration skills enhanced many folds. Influenced by this social act, a Delhi based organization “Books For All” offered hundreds of books to the school administration at very low prices, for contributing a bit in this mission.
Despite this, two other schools inspired to initiate community libraries in their region too. The learners from Shining Stars School of Ramnagar, interacted with the library leaders of Nanakmatta Public School in the virtual medium to know more about this campaign.
A few days later a news came about. Learners of Shining Stars School initiated their first library. Deepika, a learner of Nanakmatta Public School says that – “It’s much encouraging for us that we are able to inspire the students of other schools too. We were also inspired by the colleagues of Devalthal, as they started this mission at first. This learning must go on.”
It was the time, just 5 years ago, a small but new campaign started in the hilly region (Pithoragarh) of the state. With the guidance of their teacher Mr Mahesh Chandra Punetha, the students of Government Inter College, Devalthal started community libraries in their region. To develop the reading culture in the region, this campaign was started. Later this mission broadened, as the learners of Nanakmatta inspired by it and decided to start the same in their region.
Between all this, so many collaborations taken place. Learners became more confident. All the mentors of these learners, Kamlesh Atwal, Mahesh Chandra Punetha, Vijay Gahtori, Kamlesh Joshi and all others focus on the same thing. They say that – “These learners would not realize so soon that how they are enriching themselves with this mission. There would be drastic change in their personalities in the coming years, if they continue doing so.”
This initiative of community libraries show the community sense among these learners. At the time when most of the children were cut off from the learning process, this mission proved to be ray of sunshine in the dark. It’s true that covid-19 created vast distances between the persons.
But here in Nanakmatta something reverse happened. Kids got chance to meet and interact with the other kids at these community centers. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The future depends on what we do today.” Hope for the better future….