Dubai, UAE: An Emirati teenager has collected “several thousand” used books as part of a drive to establish a new library for a school.
Ali Hassani said that his passion for literature inspired his decision to collect books for an Al Barsha school.
“I’ve always been really interested in books and have been a voracious reader,” said the 17 year old. “But as I got older I began to realise that not everybody has had the same opportunities as I have had. I wanted to try and do something about that.”
According to statistics from the Arab Organisation for Education, Science and Culture, an estimated 97 million Arabs in the Middle East are illiterate.
“For me, this goes against the teachings of Islam because Islamic law clearly says that education is a necessity,” Ali said.
“The first word supposedly ever uttered to the Prophet Mohammed by God was the command ‘read’. To further the culture I think education is extremely important.”
Initially, Ali felt powerless to do anything about the situation until he contacted the World Literacy Foundation – an independent not-for-profit charity. The organisation made him its UAE ambassador.
“Then, by chance, I found out about the situation at Al Arqam Private School in Al Barsha,” the Dubai American Academy pupil said.
“I was told that they don’t have the funds for a library. That means they have very few books and their pupils don’t have the opportunity to read as much as they could.
“They had also donated many of their books to a girls school nearby, which I thought was an amazing gesture.”
Ali decided to help Al Arqam by appealing to friends and family, as well as schoolmates, for unwanted books.
“I spoke to pupils at my school and my family got the word out to their friends and other relatives they knew had books and might want to donate,” he said.
“I was expecting a few hundred books if we were lucky, but in the first 10 days alone we got about 1,000.”
The three-and-a-half-week collection period ended with “several thousand” books being donated. The books were primarily a mixture of English and Arabic titles, among other languages.
“I couldn’t believe people would be so generous,” said Ali.
“Most of the books we got were for children, but we also got encyclopedias, dictionaries, including an English to Dutch dictionary.
“There were also a lot of classics as well, so the pupils at Al Arqam have a lot to look forward to.”
The books are currently being stored at Ali’s home as the final paperwork is completed.
“There has been a slight delay because after we had completed the collection the Dubai Government changed the rules regarding charities, so we are just completing the documentation for that,” said Ali.
“Also the Al Arqam school said its library isn’t ready just yet, but hopefully everything should be sorted in a couple of weeks and we can send the books to them then.”
Rasha Nashat, Ali’s mother, said her family was proud of the way he was trying to help the community.
“He feels very passionate about encouraging education in the Middle East and we do our best to support and help him follow his path,” she said.
Ali added he hoped his book collection effort would be a springboard for him to engage in other beneficial activities in future.
© The National
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