The idea of education or of educating the masses is a vital force in bringing about a change in the nation-building process of a country. In broader perspective, education is considered as an essential instrument in transforming the very basis of society in terms of creating opportunities and eliminating hurdles.
The essence of education lies in raising consciousness and awareness among the common people in order for them to be considered responsible citizens of the state. The very idea of education becomes significant here. So the prime objective of education aims at and is essentially linked with the practical implications of education in the overall socio-economic development, democratisation and freedom of the common masses in any society or state. And this prime objective is essentially connected with the awareness of and the effective and efficient role of libraries and books as the building blocks of education.
The practical implications and essence of education cannot be achieved without libraries and books. Herein, the role of libraries and books becomes paramount and instrumental in the socio-economic development process.
Looking at the state of affairs against this backdrop, we find gross inequalities across class, ethnic, gender and geographic boundaries. The inequity in education is also linked with mismanagement and poor condition of resources especially the non-availability of libraries and easy access to books.
The pragmatic educational change is largely possible through the functional role of libraries and the book reading culture. Unfortunately, we find a serious problem of non-functional libraries due to lack of effective and efficient educational leadership, management and policies especially at the primary and secondary school levels. Moreover, in the public-private education sector, we find gross disparities in the access and control over resources and opportunities.
In public-sector schools and colleges, all kinds of modern facilities ranging from basic infrastructure, computer literacy to an easy access to books are found in ramshackle conditions. In the particular case of rural and semi-urban areas, the condition of libraries and provision of books, both the high school/college and district government public libraries, is dilapidated and part of the low priority agenda by the relevant authorities.
In Sindh, the dysfunctional and poor condition of libraries is a special case in point which draws attention to the issue of inequality and mismanagement in education. It is pertinent to mention here that except for Hyderabad, Larkana, Sukkur, Nawabashah, Khairpur and Dadu, many district-level cities and small towns don’t have the facility of libraries. In case there are a few libraries in some other towns, they are dysfunctional or in a very poor condition. For instance, Kotri, the district headquarter of Jamshoro, has the very old Malik Sikandar Khan library, named after the father of ex-MPA and District Nazim Malik Asad Sikandar. The library, established before Partition, is completely dysfunctional now even though Malik Asad Sikandar was twice elected as the nazim of Jamshoro. The same issue of negligence and low priority in education at the hands of government officials and elected representatives sidesteps the role of libraries in social change.
Similarly, the problem of non-availability of libraries at the school and college level is a serious one embedded into the issue of the government’s priorities and policies about education. It is strange to note that a large number of schools and colleges have allocated rooms for libraries but with no books or library management.
This whole scenario draws attention towards introducing and implementing an educational model for social change and development at the grassroots community level. It calls for the execution and replication of an innovative model of community education implemented by the Hyderabad-based civil society organisation, Sarangaa Literary & Cultural Society (SLCS), which could be cited as an exemplary case study in the field of community education.
Following the visionary idea of education and socio-economic change, SLCS has developed an innovative project to connect the poor and marginalised sections of the society with books to bring about social change at the grassroots level. With USAID funding, Sarangaa Society has developed a very innovative community education project titled ‘Books for a Bright Future’, which has been implemented in five government-run high schools — two at Kotri, one at Tando Allahyar and two at Thano Bula Khan.
The libraries have been established in the aforementioned public-sector high schools to provide easy access to books and knowledge for the poor students who are otherwise unable to access or afford good reading material. As the title of the project indicates itself, its very idea, according to Programme Manager Ishaq Samejo, is to facilitate the poor students who don’t have access to Internet, computers and books at home. The selected schools for this project are located in poor vicinities and mohallas of the three towns with no public libraries. Among the three mentioned project areas, three private libraries do exist in Kotri and Tando Allahyar but they are completely dysfunctional.