Indonesian children holding their art papers as they attend a program at the under bridge libraby called "TBM Kolong." Photographer: Adek Berry/ AFP
Singing and laughter briefly drown out the roar of cars under a Jakarta flyover, where an unlikely library for kids is thriving despite choking fumes — and opposition from menacing gangsters.
There's no quiet rule at this open-air reading park wedged between two lanes of traffic just outside Indonesia's capital, a city of some 30 million that is notorious for having some of the world's worst traffic jams.
Despite its unlikely location, the Taman Baca Masyarakat Kolong has been a hit. A shortage of public libraries means it's one of the few places where kids from this area can read books outside school.
"We wanted to bring books closer to the community," Devina Febrianti, a library coordinator, said, as car horns blared accompanied by choking exhaust fumes.
Several years ago, the flyover in suburb Ciputat, part of Jakarta's greater metropolitan area, was strewn with rubbish and roamed by intimidating street thugs, Febrianti said.
But armed with books and paint, local organisations set about transforming its down-and-out reputation.
Artists painted murals on the walls, installed planter boxes and a futsal pitch, and a library with several dozen books was built on site.
Still, it wasn't met with universal acclaim when it opened for business in 2016.
"In the beginning not everyone was supportive when we came with books because there were already other residents here," Febrianti said.
"We asked for forgiveness first from the gangsters who were here and then the 'angkot' drivers," she added, referring to cheap and ubiquitous minivans that provide public transport.
Winning over parents afraid that their children would be kidnapped or hit by a car was no mean feat, either.
Smell, rubbish, loud noises
But eventually, parents — and even the street gangs — warmed to the idea.
"We wanted to bring books closer to the community
Today, it's not uncommon to see up to 70 kids attending after-school sessions, where they read stories with teachers, get help with homework, or sing and dance on concrete covered with green Astroturf.
Bookshelves are stuffed with hand-me-down kids books and some other less likely titles such as "Accounting" and "Glossary of Marketing Terms."
Emilia Clara, an 11-year-old student, said she liked reading stories, especially fairytales, with friends.
"It makes me happy and it's exciting," said in a brief interview, before rushing back to join the other kids.
And it has won over parents like Salmih Usia, a 41-year-old mother of two.
"This is a great place for learning, creating and playing," she said.
Indonesian volunteers conducting a storytelling to children at the under bridge library. Photographer: Adek Berry/AFP
Free reading gardens, known as Taman Bacaan, have existed in various forms across Indonesia for several decades.
They're often run by NGOs or volunteer associations funded by public and private sector contributions.
Some 80 reading parks have been established this part of the sprawling capital, although there is only one located right below a flyover, Febrianti said.
In Hong Kong, a small outdoor library that doubled as a children's playground was set up under a flyover in the bustling city as part of research into how to better use community spaces, according to a report in the South China Morning Post last year.
Back in Indonesia, library volunteers admit the street-side location poses some potential health problems because of the fumes from traffic and the subsequent impact on air quality.
"But so far there haven't been any complaints about the smell, rubbish or loud noises," Febrianti said, adding: "We use a sound system, which is quite helpful for us to overcome the (noise) problem."
Two architecture students from Ajman University have beaten more than 50 participants from the country’s top universities to win the P&T Architecture Student Competition Awards.
The Pew analysis indicates that the 22 per cent of American adults use Twitter — far less than the 69 per cent using the leading social network Facebook.
His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member, Ruler of Sharjah, and President of the University of Sharjah, UoS, on Monday inaugurated the 13th Annual Scientific Research Forum organised by the University under the theme, ‘Multidisciplinary Research to maximise Sustainable Impact” at Al Razi Hall in Medical and Health Sciences Colleges at University of Sharjah, UoS.
Abu Dhabi University (ADU) hosted students from across the globe during this year’s University Innovation Fellows Eastern Hemisphere Meetup in the United Arab Emirates. Two days of the four-day programme, run by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school), took place at the university’s Abu Dhabi and Dubai campuses.
The Philippines' department of foreign affairs expressed its "deep sadness" at the passing of Bernardita Catalla, which it said was the result of "complications arising from Covid 19".
The Ministry of Education said the decision was taken as part of preventative and precautionary measures against the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, with the aim of protecting the health of students and the general public.
With more than 35 years of experience in the banking and financial services, Saeed held key positions as a board member of the First Abu Dhabi Bank, the Abu Dhabi Developmental Holding Company, the Emirates Investment Authority, the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and Sky News Arabia.