With the advancement of science and technology, human civilization has travelled a long way with many success stories of development in its hand. Whether economical, social, political, personal or cultural development, the role of education can never be underestimated. Education paves way for a comprehensive development of an individual, a society and a nation. Education is, of course, a boon for human life. But it is equally true that we stand far behind when it comes to literacy. With a literacy rate of 41%, Balochistan still needs to up the game which should not only be based on learning concepts but also ensuring values imparted to all through value-based education.
While we still need schools and colleges to educate our youth, we must not forget the fundamental importance of libraries in our society. The unique values embraced by public libraries not only shape the purpose but also influence popular opinions surrounding it and foster the confidence that communities place in them as a source of trusted information and assistance in finding knowledge.
Nurturing the reading culture is important because the youth thinks on a comprehensive level and also because they are connected to the world through a similar story. Public libraries, therefore, serve as places where information is thought of as a public good, which leads to discussions of the role of information provision in democratic societies.
Where most of us wait for these facilities to be provided to us, there are a handful of people who are firm believers of the phrase “charity begins at home”. An organisation known as Balochistan Youth Against Corona (BYAC) founded by Sikander Bizenjo, Banari Mengal, Khalid Ismail and Muhammad Yasir Baloch is famous for its philanthropic activities. These youngsters, through their organisation, started a ration drive amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and managed to supply rations to over 2400 deserving families in over 39 towns of Balochistan and with the aim to reach 10,000 households. In addition, they started another drive to facilitate health care frontliners by providing 658 protective gears, including personal protective equipment (PPE), N95 masks, face shields and hand sanitizers in various parts of Balochistan.
Accomplishing all this did not put an end to their social work, instead, they further extended their humanitarianism by donating books to different public libraries of Balochistan. “I was contacted by Yasir Baloch and Mumtaz Sajidi to contribute to donating for a local library in Wadh built by students. After giving 250 books, we had a team discussion and thought it would be great if we can start this initiative all over Balochistan and not limit it to one district or area. After Wadh, we have donated books to a library for kids in Awaaran, a library in Naal that was built by students and a public library in Turbat. Reading is essential to provide our future generation with opportunities to explore new ideas and increase their knowledge”, informed the cofounder Banari Mengal upon asking about the inspiration behind this cause.
She further added that “public libraries are of great importance in remote areas for various reasons. There is no access to the internet in most areas of Balochistan; thus, a public library allows research prospects for students. It is a great place to have group studies or study alone, which is essential for every student. Libraries encourage young children to explore and broaden their imagination and creativity. I just hope books are taken care of and returned on time so communities can utilise them efficiently.”
While this initiative was the talk of the town, what sent waves of thrill on social media was a tweet from the famous writer Paulo Coelho who acknowledged these efforts by tweeting “Send books to Balochistan, they’re building reading rooms.” Sharing her experience of how she reacted when she first saw the tweet Banari Mengal expressed, “SHOCKED…Even though he might have a google alert for himself- it was a grand gesture and encouraged many people to donate. I am super excited and proud of my team’s efforts and all the dedication Sikander Bizenjo, Khalid Ismail and Dr Yasir Baloch have put into this cause.”
Further, team BYAC has urged everyone to come forward and donate as much as they can, while assuring that they will not limit the drive to their hometowns but to reach districts all over Balochistan.
With this, we also need to strengthen our education system and expand access to high-quality early education programs because a large number of our children are deprived of availing basic school facilities.