The camel carries an invaluable cargo: books for children who can no longer go to school due to coronavirus lockdowns.
Crossing the desert in remote southwest Pakistan, Roshan the Camel carries an invaluable cargo: books for children who can no longer go to school due to coronavirus lockdowns.
The school children, who live in remote villages where the streets are too narrow for vehicles, put on their best clothes and rush to meet Roshan. They crowd around the animal, shouting: “The camel is here!”
Pakistani schools first closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, and have only opened sporadically since then, with around 50 million school-aged children and university students invited to continue their studies at home.
This has been particularly difficult in places like Balochistan where in many villages internet access is almost non-existent.
Raheema Jalal, principal of a secondary school who founded the camel library project with her sister, a federal minister, says she opened the library last August because she wanted children from her remote town. continue to learn despite the closure of schools.
The project is a collaboration with the Female Education Trust and the Alif Laila Book Bus Society, two NGOs that have run children’s library projects in the country for 36 years.
Roshan carries the books to four different villages in Kech District, visiting each village three times a week and staying around two hours each time. The kids borrow books and return them the next time Roshan visits.
“I love picture books, because when I look at the pictures and the photographs, I can better understand the story,” Ambareen Imran, nine, told Reuters news agency.
Jalal hopes to continue and expand the project to cover more villages, but needs funding: around $ 118 per month is needed for Roshan.
Murad Ali, the owner of Roshan, says he was surprised when he was first contacted about the project, but believed camels to be the most sensible mode of transportation.
He enjoys traveling and seeing children happy – and still earns as much as before when carrying firewood.
Balochistan makes up almost half of Pakistan by area, but the sparsely populated province is also the poorest in the country.