Rahnuma Welfare Foundation is a Section 8 non-profit trust set up by Ms. Sadiya Shaikh. Her aim is to improve the quality of education available to children – and particularly girls – in rural areas of India. The effective education available at government schools in many villages in Bihar varies between non-existent and very poor, with frequent teacher absences, lack of materials, etc.
Families with reasonable means generally find ways to send their children away to school. Sadiya, herself, is an example; her family, which is from Deora Bandhauli village in Bihar, moved to Mumbai to pursue business interests and to ensure that the children got a good education. Sadiya studied at a madrassa in Malegaon and went on to Rizvi College where she graduated in English and Sociology.
Poorer families have to make do with what’s available. Boys are often able to go to schools in neighboring villages and towns but girls generally are not permitted to travel as much, their educational opportunities are close to zero.
While Rahnuma’s medium-term goal is to set up schools, the immediate operation has been to set up community libraries.
The first one, the Maulana Azad Library, was set up in Sadiya’s home village in January 2021. Sadiya raised funds through social media and two charitable foundations – ABR Foundation in Delhi and Sahayta Trust in Hyderabad.
The library has been a huge success with 150-200 children (about 70% girls, ages 5 to 14 or 15) visiting it on most days. The library stocks all Bihar School Boards + NCERT syllabus books from Class 1-12, UG books, notebooks, stories, comics as well as daily newspapers in two languages and monthly magazines.
School children and others in the village can use these books free of cost. The library has a teacher on staff who provides 2 hours of daily lectures teaching English and Arabic to the children. The staff also includes a full-time caretaker, who monitors the children who come in (there is a register of attendees), how often the teacher comes, etc.
Sadiya is in daily WhatsApp contact with the caretaker and visits the library a few times a year for events.
The library runs different events – for Children’s Day, Republic Day, etc. – to generate interest, after which there is a surge of participation. It is trying to develop a process to monitor progress of the children who come there. The progress is seen in some of the young girls being able to give speeches in English, participate in plays, etc. Another measure is that the landlord of the space being used by the library has agreed to forego the rent from the second year onward since he sees the impact.
Sadiya has already selected another village in Bihar – Lakhminia, Begusarai – for the next library; she selected it because she has a friend from that village; it is about 5-6 hours by road from her home village and has similar demographic and education patterns.
More information: RAHNUMA WELFARE FOUNDATION
Motivation: These activities fit very well with The Book Aid’s purpose in terms of broad literacy where it’s most needed within the communities and to stimulate reading through schools and libraries.