Mobile Library Serving Free Tuition (Tutoring) Centers ~Sembakkam, Tamil Nadu, India
This Mobile Library serves six villages in a remote rural area about 70 kilometers south of Chennai (formerly Madras). This small library, with books in Tamil and in English, provides essential material for the young adults who are preparing for their 10th and 12th grade exams, as well as books for the younger children who are learning English, and even for some adults who want to develop or improve their literacy skills.
Mr. Venkatesan is the librarian-teacher who takes the books from one village to another. He is also an accountant by training and he keeps the library with an accountant’s precision, noting down the details of each book as well as who has a particular book at any given time. When Save Int'l and WaterBridgeOutreach (WBO) launched the mobile library together Mr. Venkatesan took the books around in satchels on his push bike. Later we were able to upgrade the transport to a 100cc motorbike, which makes the going easier on the numerous unpaved roads of the area.
When Gail Tsukiyama and Peter Coughlan of WBO went with Curt Degler of Save Int'l to visit Mr. Venkatesan and see him and the books in action in several of the villages, Mr. Venkatesan showed them the cabinet from which the books go out and to which they return. He took great pride in opening a small safe to show them the stamp he uses to imprint the library’s name in each of the books. In one of the photos Gail can be seen reading with children on an open veranda. What cannot be seen in the photo are the multitude of flying things, moths, mosquitoes, and more, buzzing around under the lights as she and the children read together! Since electric power is cut off for lengthy periods about every two hours in Tamil Nadu, the lights – and the reading/education that goes with the lights – are kept on through small generators that ensure enough power for the two hour sessions.
The importance of this mobile library and the teaching that goes with it is, firstly, that it can be decisive for literacy; secondly, it plays an important role in helping this girl or that boy to learn English, pass crucial exams, and have a fuller understanding of the wider world. In other words, it helps give them a chance!