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From the Mobile Teaching Kitchen to a Mobile Literacy Library – A Junior Ambassador’s Perspective

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

Authors: Nikitah Ray (NNEdPro Junior Ambassador Co-Lead & Founder of the ‘Nikitah’s Little Library’ project) & Sucheta Mitra (NNEdPro India & MTK Co-Lead)

Reviewer/Editor: Prof Sumantra (Shumone) Ray

Special Acknowledgements: NNEdPro India/MTK Team (Debashis Chakraborty, Harmanpreet Kaur, Asim Manna, Sabyasachi Ray); NNEdPro India/MTK Educational Supervisors (Mitali Gupta, Chitra Ray, Elizabeth Richards); NNEdPro/MTK Kolkata Champions; Minha Rajput-Ray, Luke Buckner & MTK Researchers (NNEdPro Virtual Core)

Note: These images have been shared with the consent of the families and communities involved

In 2016 NNEdPro decided to start working on improving the nutritional status in urban slums of India; we had detected some barriers so during the summer of 2017 we held a workshop in Cambridge to give ideas for the first and foremost design of the kitchen as a previous physical facility had been demolished as it was built in an unregistered slum territory so the council did not like this slum having ‘privileges’ of their own; I (Nikitah) had been in that meeting and had decided to sketch one of my own, and being 8 years old at the time I had decided to base it off a mobile ice-cream van! Ironically, this caught the attention of many NNEdPro core members who chose to look at the opportunities it would bring and weighing out the pros and cons it was considered something with serious potential.

From there professional blueprints were being made, collaborators were getting on board and soon 5 members of NNEdPro, Luke, Lanthi, Riya, Minha and Sumantra were bringing in ~£40K in funding which would help for a physical van to be designed especially for a teaching kitchen.

The concept became an enterprise officially named the NNEdPro Mobile Teaching Kitchen (MTK) where the central motto is ‘see one, do one, teach one‘ which encourages MTK champions to teach others, meaning that the knowledge is wider spread than just the MTK. From starting out by giving food for free to seeing customers' experience to being able to charge for the nutritionally enhanced vegetarian menus in several parts of Kolkata and India, here are the mothers are learning to cook the kitchen food in preparation for the MTK.

And here the champions are in the kitchen itself serving food to the public.

Following the success of the MTK, the mobile library is a separate entity we created attached to the slums where the main MTK champions live and these are attached to the schools in these slums.

Nikitah’s Little Library

The word ‘library’ is derived from the Latin liber, “book”.The first systematically organised library in the ancient Middle East was established in the 7th century BCE by Assyrian ruler Ashurbanipal in Nineveh, in contemporary Iraq. It contained approximately 30,000 cuneiform tablets assembled by topics. Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan, (born August 9, 1892, Shiyali, Madras, India—died September 27, 1972, Bangalore, Mysore), an Indian librarian and educator, was known as the father of library science in India and her contributions worldwide influence.

The idea of a Mobile Library for the children of the marginalised communities in Kolkata, India was outlined (by Nikitah) as early as 2018 when the MTK entered operations. However, this came to fruition when in Autumn 2021 funds were raised (by Nikitah from her school) via a children’s workshop on ‘Diwali and spreading kindness’ organised by the parents’ association and primary section at St Leonard’s School in St Andrews Scotland.

At the end of March 2022 and early April 2022, the mobile library idea was executed in two slums at Kolkatanamely Chetla Lock Gate and RG Kar, where NNEdPro is working to create Nutritional Knowledge awareness amongst women and families since 2017.

On 30th March 2022, Nikitah’s little library was inaugurated and set up at the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) school in the Chetla slum community, where 3 college students from the slums were assigned the duty of Librarians to distributing books among interested children from the slum and nearby areas to read and learn, keeping track of borrowing, monitor attendance of children in Library, and gathering more books for the library. This library was inaugurated by members of the NNEdPro Global delegation present at the time.

Similarly, on 14th April 2022, Nikitah’s little library was set up in the RG Kar slum at a registered club named “Milan Saathi”. A named ICDS teacher has been given the responsibility of taking care of books and making sure that education reaches every child residing in that/nearby area. This library was inaugurated by local Councilor Dr Meenakshi Ganguly, a renowned Gynecologist in Kolkata.

Both Libraries have started taking up considerable pace in line with the mission of EDUCATION FOR ALL and provide hubs for bilingual literacy and educational materials in English, Bengali and translations between the two languages particularly for ages 5-15. We hope to see these libraries flourish and develop further in long run to help ignite the untapped potential of the next generation as we bring together linguistic aspects of literacy together with learning in food, nutrition, health, and life skills.

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