Asia

The Indonesian horse that acts as a library

  • 6 May 2015
  • From the section Asia
42 year old Ridwan Sururi with Luna, a horse used as mobile library on May 5, 2015 in Serang Village, Purbalingga, Central Java Indonesia. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ridwan Sururi and Luna visit schools in Indonesia three times a week

Adult illiteracy in Indonesia is dropping, but one region has almost a million adults who cannot read. In central Java, the BBC meets one man and his horse who are helping improve access to books.

For a formerly wild horse that barely reaches shoulder-height on an adult man, Luna is an unlikely figure to help improve literacy rates in Indonesia.

Luna is looked after by Ridwan Sururi, 42, in the village of Serang, in the Purbalingga region of Java island.

It is a rural, tropical area, lying on the edge of one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes, Mount Slamet.

In a region dotted by villages, Mr Sururi - and Luna - have become essential links between communities in recent months.

In January, Mr Sururi started a mobile library called Kudapustaka - meaning 'horse library' in Indonesian.

He travels between villages with books stored in boxes balanced on Luna's back.

He visits schools three times a week - every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Sometimes he brings along his daughter, Indriani Fatmawati.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image copyright Getty Images
Image copyright Getty Images

Children and villagers do not have to pay anything to borrow the books and Mr Sururi has not looked to make money from the scheme.

"I love horses, and I want this hobby to bring benefit to people," he told BBC Indonesia.

The idea for Kudapustaka came from Nirwan Arsuka a fellow horse enthusiast and friend of Mr Sururi's. "He asked me: Can we help society through our hobby? I said I was interested, but I didn't know how."

"Then, he had this idea to create a mobile library using horses. I liked the idea, but sadly I didn't have any books. So, he sent me boxes of books."

According to Unesco, Indonesia has made great strides in reducing adult illiteracy in recent years, bringing the number of illiterate adults down from 15.4m in 2004 to 6.7m in 2011.

However, Unesco says there are more than 977,000 illiterate adults in central Java, Ridwan's region.

As a professional horse caretaker, Mr Sururi does not own any of his own animals. So did he ask permission to use the horse as a mobile library? "I haven't," he said, laughing.

"The owner lives far away from this village and hasn't visited the horses for a long time. I am a bit sad about that."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image copyright Getty Images

Of the three horses he is paid to look after, Mr Sururi picked Luna as his companion.

"It was a wild horse, but I tamed it. Luna has never kicked or bitten anybody, and is very friendly when surrounded by children."

He said he wished more people would donate books to his scheme. "Children here love comics and story books.

"Adults, on the other hand, need inspirational and how-to books, like how to farm, that kind of thing."

Image copyright Getty Images

Mr Sururi dreams of one day owning his own Kudapustaka horse - and a real library too.

"I hope I can have a small library in front of my house," he says. "But I know it is only a dream."

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