Ibn Batuta Community School Kosht

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After the unbelievable success of our first library at Booni, we could not imagine setting up a school without library.  With the funds collected in Belgium at the end of the year 2000, we made a good start.

The library in Booni, 1998

We purchased about 1700 books, all registered in and catalogued by computer.  Most of these are in English, but we make an effort to buy nice Urdu books also.  To be able to quickly find books on the subject you are looking for, all books have got their Dewey code number, as in all libraries all over the world.  In our collection we have:

bullet Reference works on history, geography, sociology, economics, science, mathematics and other subjects
bullet Literary master pieces
bullet Youth books
bullet Illustrated story books for early readers
bullet Reference books and educational resources to assist the teachers
bullet Books on games, recreation and para-scolar activities

Daily an agitated line of students queues to get a book, an example followed hesitantly by our teachers who never got a reading habit.  What a pleasure to see the enthusiasm of the youngest in particular, exchanging daily their treasured book for another one.

There is also ample place (there are 5 big tables and 10 comfortable chairs) in the library to sit quietly and do some research or simply have a look at the books.  We ask our teachers to stimulate the usage of the library by giving suitable assignments.

The general public has access to the library as well.  Adult members pay Rs.50 per year (Rs.55 = € 1) and book cards (valid for 20 books) are available to them at Rs.10 each.  One book at a time can be taken for one week.  If more time is required, this can be granted by the librarian.

Our new office cum library

Per day late, a fine of Rs.5 is levied.  Per damaged page, Rs.10.  These somewhat strict rules had to be introduced to make the people respect the books as well as the rules, since in this area in general the public has no experience to be careful with books nor to respect any rules whatsoever!

External students are welcome too; their admission costs Rs.25 yearly, and their borrowing card Rs.5.  Our students and teachers are members automatically, and their borrower cards are available at Rs.2 only.  In the beginning we didn't charge, and they kept on loosing their cards nearly daily!

This whole system has been tested elaborately in Booni, but the somewhat more pronounced poverty of the Kosht area has made us lower the prices to some extent.

The course books also make up an integral part of the school library.  Yearly all students get their syllabi and after completion of the year, they are returned to the library.  If their condition is reasonable, no fines are charged.  This unique system has several advantages:

bullet it limits the expenses for the parents to a minimum
bullet it obliges the pupils to take notes and improves their writing skills
bullet it teaches them to keep books clean and to take care of them properly
bullet it allowed us to use the best (and of course most expensive) textbooks available in Pakistan.  Per student the cost is about Rs.1000, but it makes sense to spend this money since these syllabi are good and develop a critical and open mind.  Besides, all the cheaper syllabi are actually based on them, while having many mistakes and being too moralistic, nationalistic and narrow minded.

We hope to be able to use these books for at least three years, after which we may start a system based on second hand books (since we are the only school in upper Chitral using these books, we first have to introduce old books in the local market).

In October 2001, during our forced stay at Islamabad, we availed the opportunity to extend the library substantially (with more than 1000 books).  We found many nice books in the second hand shops (many of which are selling new books from older editions).  We tried to find as many books as possible for the small readers, since they are our most enthusiastic customers.  Also the Urdu section has been substantially upgraded.  Since the local language is from the same family as the Urdu one, it is easier for them to learn Urdu than English.

We won't stop extending the library, since the interest of the students is growing day by the day.  It is our aim that the library becomes a source of knowledge for college and university  students too.  And who knows, maybe one day each house may have at least one library member?


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© Wendy&Jürgen 29-Mar-2004

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