TLT, 26 August 2019
As a part of ensuring free access to children to learn 21st-century skills and get creative with coding, the British Council Libraries Unlimited Programme is offering free coding classes in 64 government libraries of Bangladesh. With the inclusion of this, more children are now coming to the libraries. Young students in uniforms of the hilly Bandarban district of South-Eastern Bangladesh are seen leaving the District Govt. Public Library of Bandarban after just having learned computer programming and drawing pictures through coding for the first time. Mashwe Thui Chak, Librarian, District Government Public Library, Bandarban said “People who never came to libraries before are now getting familiar with the services of public libraries after they attended coding workshops.”
The Libraries Unlimited (LU), a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded project and implemented by the British Council, aims to modernise the public libraries of Bangladesh across all 64 districts and improve public access to information and knowledge.
Like the Bandarban workshop, LU has already engaged over 2000 children in coding through 20 workshops organised in between September 2018 to July 2019. The responses of these workshops have been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
Sumaya, one of the participants at the Munshiganj Govt. Public Library workshop stated, “I really want to be a part of more workshops like this in future”. Era, another participant of one of the coding workshops in District Govt. Public Library, Cox’s bazar said, “Coding is something very new to me. I really loved it and I will visit the public library again.” The workshops have always been filled with children of different age groups, and a survey among the participants found that 99% said they would visit the library more often if activities like these were available.
These coding workshops helped to initiate relationship building between the librarians and the participants. One of the participants from Cox’s Bazar, Md Zubair who is a science student of 11 class in a local college, was introduced to the librarian of District Government Library of Cox’s Bazar, Mr Hrishikesh Paul by the British Council. There Zubair expressed his interest in volunteering for coding classes in the future with his friends. This motivated Mr Paul to initiate the formation of a coding club at the District Government Library in Cox’s Bazar. He stated, “Through this coding club we will be providing free coding classes to the members of this library twice in a week.” Within only a month, 20 new members registered for the club activities and library memberships.
Director-General of the Department of Public Libraries, Ms. Jahanara Pervin stated “The British Council is supporting us with computer and ITC skills and coding is a part of enhancing the creative learning among the children. I hope that coding will bring more people to libraries.”
Coding is one of the many initiatives being introduced by Libraries Unlimited to broaden the scope of services available in the public libraries of Bangladesh. It is expected that at least 1,75,000 unique library users will be benefitted from these devices by 2020. The British Council is determined to introduce more projects like this to increase the correlation between the UK and Bangladesh.