August 30, 2017 / 3:44 AM / 2 years ago

Jakarta's "bemo" library brings books to kids, but days numbered

JAKARTA, Aug 30 (Reuters) - The sound of Sutino Hadi’s sputtering mobile library fills children with delight as they wait to dive into stacks of short stories and picture books.

“With this, we’re becoming fond of reading,” said Firda Dwi Sagita, a third-grader living in one of Jakarta’s poorest neighbourhoods.

Sutino Hadi has converted his three-wheeled, purple auto-rickshaw, known locally as a bemo, into a mobile library for children who don’t have easy access to books.

The reading materials are donated by universities and libraries.

“There’s no need to go look for other places or libraries that are too far away,” said another third-grader Alfandi Mardiansyah.

Hadi said children flock to his brightly-coloured three-wheeler when it arrives in their neighbourhood.

“It draws in children automatically,” Hadi said of his bemo which also serves as a makeshift cinema showing educational films to children on weekends.

The days of bemos ferrying people and goods through Jakarta’s streets are coming to an end.

Imported from Japan in the early 1960s, the three-wheeled bemo was for decades a key mode of public transportation in the sprawling Indonesian capital.

Today, its high emission levels are deemed environmentally unfriendly. The Jakarta government is gradually enforcing a ban announced in June on the rustic three-wheelers.

When that day comes for Hadi’s bemo, he hopes someone else will take up the mobile library.

“I hope that the library idea will be continued by younger generations with other vehicles,” he said. (Reporting by Heru Asprihanto, Writing by Yiming Woo, Editing by Karishma Singh and Michael Perry)

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