A district long affected by militancy in Arunachal Pradesh is celebrating the rebirth of an analog library even as the world embraces the digital era.
Longding, bordering Nagaland, is among the three districts of the Frontier State where encounters with various factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland are routine. The other two are Changlang and Tirap, from which Longding was carved out in March 2012.
Local organisations have revived a demand for the creation of Patkai Autonomous Council comprising the three districts.
But the current buzz in Longding, the headquarters of the district dominated by the Wancho community, has been about an abandoned government building that has been transformed to revive the library movement in the area.
Our district has no college and none of the eight schools offer commerce courses. Only two schools in the headquarters teach science. It is difficult to get academic literature, newspapers and magazines, and the Internet service is too weak to access digital libraries, said Chanphua Wangsu, a 28-year-old social activist from Longkhaw village near Longding town.
The only library in the headquarters has been virtually defunct since the 1990s. So most college students and civil service aspirants who returned home after the lockdown had nowhere to go for academic pursuits, he told The Hindu.
Filling a void
Mr. Wangsu, who has been providing career counselling and free coaching classes for Economics to higher secondary students at home since 2017, felt the void and approached Longdings Deputy Commissioner, Cheshta Yadav. She offered him the towns Crafts Training Centre, a few hundred metres from her office, in disuse since the mid-1990s.
Mr. Wangsu and his students then took turns to clear the wild bushes around the centre, and repair, paint and decorate the rooms with the help of donations. The 15 feet by 7-feet reading hall with a library room and a toilet opened in July.
Apart from my own collection of books, papers and magazines, there are more than 100 academic books and journals collected from the library. The Deputy Commissioner and other officers also provided some reading material, Mr. Wangsu said, adding that civil service aspirants were making full use of the library.
The district administration and students who returned post the lockdown joined hands for the initiative. Students, otherwise, seldom return, largely due to the lack of educational opportunitiesand conducive atmosphere, Ms. Yadav said.
Despite many challenges, Longding has made strides in improving education. The Class Ten success rate during 2019-20 was 38.12%, compared to 26.83% during the previous year.
The Mission 100% project saw an average of 96% Class Twelve students in the district pass the Science and Humanities exams, up from about 70% during 2018-19. Longding now has the best teacher-student ratio in Arunachal Pradesh with 1:43. The States average is 1:23.
As an encouragement to pursue higher education, we are providing air fare for students to pursue higher education in colleges under Delhi University and other States. The enrolment of our students in colleges elsewhere has increased by 10%, Ms. Yadav said.
Reputed colleges closest to Longding are in Assams Tinsukia district, about 125 km away, while those in Arunachal Pradeshs capital Itanagar are at least 300 km away.