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NEW DELHI: Schoolchildren in a small village in the Indian state of Bihar discovered the joys of reading after their school principal designed and funded a school library.

The airplane-shaped library in Sivaisinghpur is the first in the village and surrounding area. The rural literacy rate in Bihar is only about 45%, one of the lowest in India.

Children enter the library room by climbing a series of steps resembling a retractable staircase.

Meghan Sahani, who for the past four years has been headmaster of Sivaisinghpur High School in Samastipur district, funded the library out of her own pocket.

“Education funding is very minimal in the state and it is not easy to have a publicly funded school library, so I took the initiative,” Sahani told Arab News. “I really felt that the students in the village needed to be exposed to a good education and books, in addition to classes.”

“Education is key to changing lives in this rural area,” he said.

The father of four himself designed the library to attract children to reading. He wanted to combine the joy of learning with the excitement of getting on a plane to explore the world.

And that’s what students say they feel when they step into the “cockpit” of the plane’s library and sit with books on the port and starboard side.

“The library opens up a whole new world for me in this small village,” eighth-grade student Anita Kumari told Arab News.

QUICKFACTS

  • “Education is key to changing lives,” says the principal of the school who designed and financed the construction.

  • Rural literacy rate in Bihar of around 45% – among the lowest in India.

Her classmate, Lovely Kumari, said the library is “a space where the book is the only companion” and where she can reflect on her future goals.

For another student, Adarsh ​​Chouhan, the library is a place where he can focus on his learning. “At home you are disturbed and distracted,” he said. “The library provides a private space and an opportunity to explore more.”

Inaugurated on January 10, the aircraft library now has a collection of 500 volumes. The number of books available is growing rapidly thanks to local donations, Sahani said.

“The library has created a buzz in the surrounding neighborhoods and has become a curiosity among students,” he added. “I’m happy with this development.”

The district education department is also supporting the initiative, although it says it cannot help due to funding constraints.

“We support the work of the director and lend our moral support to the initiative,” Madan Roy, district education officer, told Arab News.

“Unfortunately, the government has no funds for such a library, but we are happy that one has come into existence.”

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