Promoting reading, among children in Sri Lanka plantations

By N.Karunagaran
[Children Programme Coordinator, PREDO]

PREDO has introduced mobile libraries to distribute books among children’s clubs in plantations

[Dambatenne tea plantation, highlands, sri lanka-pic:cjb22]

No one would dispute the fact that the plantation people are the most underdeveloped people, be it in education, economy or in politics. The disenfranchisement of this group of people in the 1948s which resulted in their political isolation deprived them of the enjoyment of their fundamental rights. For these and other historical reasons , ‘education’ has never been the part of the culture of these people. The same applies to their reading habits. The best indicator of the low standard of education of these people is that the children who gain university entrance from this sector lie far below 1%. On the other hand, no facilities are available or was provided even in this developed era for children in the plantations to help them to improve their reading habits which is adversely affecting their education . After the people in the plantations started showing interest in education, some plantation political parties and trade unions constructed library building in the plantations, but did not provide sufficient books or train people to maintain them. Consequently, the buildings are either idling or being used for other purposes. In addition these people who were without electricity until recent times were provided with electrical power without being properly educating in its proper use. This has led to other complications. People and children spend most of their time viewing or listening to TV and other electronic media which has taken the reading habit completely away from them.

Although it is said, “Reading makes a full man,” the plantation people and their children were never given this chance of becoming ‘complete men.’ In this backdrop, the Plantation Rural Education and Development Organization (PREDO) introduced mobile libraries to distribute books among the children’s clubs established in the plantations. Presently PREDO runs about 125 children’s clubs mobile libraries. PREDO provides books to these mobile libraries within it’s means and it is evident that the children now show interest in reading. The children make covers for the books to preserve them. They also have made bags to carry them from one place to another making them available to children in other plantations. Children have now developed the habit of asking their parents to buy books for their birthdays out of the money that would be spent otherwise and donate the books bought to the mobile libraries. Some children’s clubs also have negotiated with the estate management directly and were successful in getting buildings to establish libraries. Recently such a building obtained from the management of Kotiyagala Estate and at St. Wiggins Estate in the Bogawantalawa area were opened after they were renovated by the children club members with the assistance of their parents. Since the children had insufficient books for the library, the parents were requested to donate used books and they were able to collect about 85 books.

When children finish reading the books they ask for new ones. These plantation children who do not have the means or the facility to attend supplementary or tuition classes in the urban areas, are pleading with PREDO to give them supplementary study books to help to improve their educational standards. It is beyond the reach of PREDO to supply books to 125 clubs.

The change of attitude among the plantation parents who were thought to be totally lethargic about the education of the children coming forward to donate books towards the children’s libraries has inspired PREDO to launch a campaign to collect books for the children’s libraries mainly depending on the goodwill of the people.

In view of the ‘Literacy Day’ on 8th September, and the ‘Month of Reading’ in October, PREDO had declared five months from June to October as the “Library book collection campaign period.” Every children’s club is targeting to collect 50 used or new books from parents and well wishers during the campaign period. In order to encourage the children, PREDO on it’s part has agreed to supplement their collection with ten new books for every 50 books so collected.

There is a saying, “Be ashamed to ask for favours from others but not books.” For one who knows the plight of the plantation children, helping them to further their education and reading habits would be seen not as a mere favour but a meritorious act.

PREDO seeks the support of well wishers who have the desire to support and encourage these plantation children’s clubs to donate used or new book by contacting PREDO at No: 30, Pushapdana Mawatha Kandy (Telephone 081-236746 email ) predo@sltnet.lk

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