The Optimist Citizen

This 9-year old girl started a library in her slum to educate other slum children

The Story of Muskan Ahirwar who is bringing a revolution just with a few books, some tattered mats, a dingy house, and an unflinching desire to spread education.

Common public thought around children living in slums consists of helpless children surviving in egregious living conditions, are prone to hunger, illiteracy, and poor physical as well as psychological health conditions. Although most of this might seem to be true, there is one girl living in a slum in Bhopal whose work has the capability to prove this notion wrong. After a hectic day at school, 9-year old Muskan Ahirwar does not gets ready to play or to goof around. Instead, she collects her books, mats and along with her sister starts setting up the library for all the children in her slum. Yes, this line might sound absurd, but Muskan Ahirwar indeed acts as a librarian and a teacher at her library called “Bal Pustakalay” in a slum near Arera Hills, Bhopal.

The Library started when a team from Rajya Shiksha Kendra came to the slum behind their office to distribute sweets and books. Interactions with the children revealed that they had an intense desire to read and learn, but the scarcity of resources crumpled every one of their desires. Amidst those children was Muskan Ahirwar, a sharp girl with an inquisitive mind and sharp answers, who caught their eye and they decided to give her some books as a new learning opportunity. Hence, began Muskan’s Library on 26th January 2016 with an insatiable zeal and a few books. Every day, Muskan with the help of her sister Neha and her friends cleans and arranges the books and opens the gates to around 25 children. The library runs from 10 am to 11 am in the morning and 5 pm to 6 pm in the evening, once Muskan is back from school. The girls maintain a record of books issued, but the date of return is usually kept flexible. Hence they don’t have a ‘Deposit Date’.

“Except the regular library services, we do paintings on Saturdays and play games on Sundays and plan regular surprises for all the kids”, says an eager Muskan who becomes a teacher for the young ones, teaching them ABCs and numbers. But on being asked, the children unanimously voted that both the Didis are very strict.

But, these innocent faces have had their fair share of problems. From lack of space, basic amenities, shortage of books to a few non-cooperating individuals in the slums, Muskan Ahirwar and her friends face these issues on a daily basis. “We wish for a room with electricity and water for our library”, says Neha. But when you do something good, things start falling right into place. Muskan and her friends are blessed with extremely supportive families and dedicated members from Rashtriya Shiksha Kendra who visit them regularly and help them sort out the problems of Bal Pustakalay. Recently Muskan Ahirwarwas nominated for the NITI AAYOG award, but it is the smiles and amazement on the faces of small children that drive Muskan every day.

And it is this amazing drive that Muskan Ahirwar stands for. She is a testament to the fact that when numerous countries and international organizations are investing huge sums of money and manpower to spread literacy, here is a 9-year old who is making her contribution with a few books, some tattered mats, a dingy house, and an unflinching desire to spread the power of the written word.


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