A camel named Roshan carries priceless cargo through the deserts of remote southwest Pakistan — books for children who can no longer go to school because of coronavirus lockdowns.
Pakistan’s 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-age children and university students told to continue their education from home. It’s been especially difficult in places like Balochistan, where in many villages internet access is almost non-existent.
Raheema Jalal, a high school principal who founded the Camel Library project with her sister, a federal minister, says she started the library last August because she wanted children around her remote hometown to continue learning despite schools being closed.
The project is a collaboration with the Female Education Trust and Alif Laila Book Bus Society, two NGOs that have been running children’s library projects in the country for 36 years.
Roshan carries the books to four different villages in the district of Kech, visiting each village three times a week and staying for about two hours each time. Children borrow books and return them the next time Roshan visits.
Jalal hopes to continue and expand the project to cover more villages, but needs funding of around $118 a month for Roshan.
Murad Ali, Roshan’s owner, says he was taken aback when he was first contacted about the project, but thought camels were the sensible mode of transport. He enjoys the trips and seeing the happy children and still earns as much as he used to when he transported firewood.
Balochistan makes up nearly half of Pakistan by area, but the sparsely populated province is also the country’s most impoverished.