In Bangladesh, Shariatpur is one of the lowest performing districts in primary education, standing near the bottom at 62 out of 64 districts based on dropout rates (BBS, 2012). It is also one of the most flood affected areas and has a high number of extreme poor. Concern Worldwide (Irish-based International Humanitarian Organization) has implemented a 3-year project from January 2013 to December 2015 namely “Digital School Library for Extreme Poor Children” with 10 schools in 2 Upazillas reached approximately 1000 children and developed a knowledge base society working with CBOs (Community-Based Organizations). The main aim of the project was to attract the extreme poor children to school and improve their education in a sustainable way through training and learning by the innovative approach of a digital school library. The author was appointed as a library consultant of that project. It was an amazing experience of the author that he had to face many challenges to get the attention because the extreme poor children were not interested at all to learn anything. They were very much fond of watching TV (television), moving here and there unnecessarily, playing in a group at riverside and jumping over the river for nothing. To attract them towards school, author in association with the research team made and presented some educational short videos namely, “Mina Cartoon (2015)” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dahl8UII3n4&list) and “School for river erosion-affected children and sex workers children etc). These worked and inspired to bring them back to school. They become interested to visit the school library frequently for gathering knowledge. The author had to strive hard to develop the capacity of the School Management Committees (SMCs) and the Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) through need based training with the help of an innovative approach of a school library, for example, he had to develop some digital learning resources including annual plans to get out-of-school-children into school. As a result of learning and training through digital school libraries, it has been seen that by the end of the project: (a) Improved pass rate; (b) Increased enrolment rate; (c) Increased retention rates; (d) Increased involvement of the SMCs and PTAs in development and implementation of School Level Improvement Plans; and (e) The poorest children and their parents got a good idea on Equality, Right Based Approach (RBA), HIV and AIDS and on their Rights and Entitlements. Thus school based small digital libraries have turned into integral part in their lives. The basic aim of the paper is to share the author’s experience on how the digital school library project demonstrated access to primary school for the poorest and out-of-school children. Some interesting case studies will also be discussed in this paper.
Key words: Digital libraries, school libraries, libraries for extreme poor, knowledge base society.
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