In the little-known Chapodi village of Yavatmal district,there is a rush of excitement among school-going children. Kids hurry past one another to look at the latest attraction in the village a library. They step in to thumb through the collection of neatly-lined books,pick out works that seem interesting and sit down in quiet thrill to soak in the whole new experience.
If reading books that introduce new ideas and inspire fresh perspectives is imperative to growth,Gyan-Key project is making sure that students across the state get an opportunity to be surrounded by tomes that fire the imagination. An initiative of city-based social organisation Rural Relations,the project aims to open libraries in schools across Maharashtras rural areas. Starting in 2009,the project recently reached a milestone by opening the 1,000th library in Chapodi village. The first such library was set up at a secondary school in Asare village of Wai taluka,Satara district.
The man behind the initiative,Pradeep Lokhande,who is spearheading Rural Relations since its establishment in 1996,says the whole idea behind launching Gyan-Key was to empower rural students with knowledge. He adds that under the project they have been able to set up libraries even in districts from backward regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada,while establishing more than 50 libraries in Pune district.
While working in rural Maharashtra,I was struck by the lack of reading habit among children in villages. They were unknown to the many benefits of reading, Lokhande says.
With no funding from government agencies,the real credit behind the success of the project goes to donors who come from various backgrounds. Anybody can support our cause by donating a minimum of Rs 5,000. We use the money to buy a set of 180 books,carefully selected to include different genres like biographies and autobiographies of noted personalities,acclaimed story books,general knowledge books and light reads, says the 50-year-old Lokhande.
He adds that to ensure transparency,donors are asked to draw cheques in favour of the publisher. Once the library is established,we also share letters from the schools and students reactions with the donors,apart from giving regular updates on the progress, shares Lokhande.
The library is run by one of the girls (Gyan-Key monitor) from the village studying in class VI. Students are also encouraged to donate books for their library on their birthday. This creates a sense of belonging, he says.
Despite reaching 1,000 schools,Lokhande sees his job as far from over. There are roughly 5,800 secondary schools in Maharashtra,and we dream of setting up Gyan-Key network in most of these schools, he says.
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