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Iran (Islamic Republic of): Newsline

Mobile libraries bring Bam’s children knowledge and fun

©UNICEF Iran/2005/Eeles
Ten-year-old Somaye Ghorbanizadeh reads a book borrowed from one of Bam's UNICEF-supported mobile libraries.

BAM, Iran, 10 May 2005 – Ten-year-old Somaye Ghorbanizadeh sits chewing her pencil in a dusty, makeshift classroom in the desert town of Bam. She continually glances at the clock on the wall, worried that soon it will be too late.

Somaye has been looking forward to this moment for days. Knowing that the bus only comes once every two weeks, her frustration is beginning to show. “Maybe this week, it won’t come,” she thinks.

Suddenly she hears the sound of an engine, and jumps up in anticipation. “The books are here, the books are here!” she shouts and races outside. The entire class follows.

Outside, a large white bus slowly makes its way across the school’s playground. As it comes to a halt, it is quickly surrounded by dozens of excited girls. Some are holding books borrowed from a previous trip. Others have their library cards gripped tightly in their small hands.

There is something different about this bus. It is in fact a mobile library, filled with more than 3,000 books and staffed by two librarians.

“The children are really happy when the mobile library comes,” says the head teacher, Motahareh Majidian. “It helps them improve their literacy, increases their knowledge and improves their essay writing.”

© UNICEF Iran/2005/Eeles
Inside a mobile library, a 10-year-old girl registers for membership with the librarians.

Bam’s mobile library service – supported by UNICEF with funds from the Italian TV company TG5 – has been running for several months now. After the devastating earthquake in December 2003, almost every school was completely destroyed, leaving most children with no access to books. Now, every two weeks, two buses working in shifts visit around 40 schools in and around Bam, benefiting more than 4,000 children.

“Because of what happened during the earthquake, children have no recreation. Bringing these books to the schools is the best thing we can do,” says librarian Nayereh Badi Ozaman. “They’ve had so many traumatic experiences and reading books entertains them. In this way it can help them.”

Nayereh is one of 10 librarians working in the mobile libraries. They work in pairs, dividing their time between registering new members, and advising children on what to read. There is a wide range of books available, from old Iranian legends to picture stories and poetry. Some are educational, providing support in math and science.

“I like historical books the most because I can learn about what it was like in the past, what they ate, what they wore and what they did for a living,” says schoolgirl Mahtab Mousavi, thumbing through a line of books on the bottom shelf.

©UNICEF Iran/2005/Eeles
Mohammad Hassan Barkhordi, Mohammad Hossein Vahidabadi, Pedram Abasi (1st row, from left to right) and their classmates react with joy when a UNICEF-supported mobile library visits their school in Baravat, near Bam.

Many of the children have brothers and sisters. When they take their library books home, their families benefit also. “I have such a good feeling when I hear the mobile library arriving,” says schoolgirl Haniyeh Behzadi. “Whenever I borrow a book from it, I read it and learn from it, and then tell the stories to my little brothers and sisters.”

Being mobile means greater access. Due to the shortage of space, schools in Bam have to operate in shifts, with girls and boys taking turns attending in the morning or afternoon. Most schools in Bam are small, cramped and bare with few facilities – not conducive learning environments, which is why UNICEF teamed up with Iran’s Ministry of Education to run the mobile library service.

“Facilities and learning materials must be made mobile and shared in order to ensure greater access to basic quality education for all girls and boys,” says UNICEF Bam Education Officer Katharina Imhof. “Education and recreation bring a sense of stability to disrupted communities and create hope for the future.”

The mobile library makes a huge difference to the lives of thousands of children in Bam. Supporting their educational and recreational needs in a child-friendly environment can help them slowly rebuild their lives.


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10 May 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Miranda Eeles reports on the mobile libraries that bring knowledge and fun to thousands of children in Bam, Iran.

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10 May 2005:
UNICEF correspondent Miranda Eeles reports on Bam's mobile libraries.