Kitengesa Library in Uganda and the neighboring School for the Deaf

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Kitengesa Community Library is located near the trading centre of Kitengesa, a few kilometres south of the district headquarters town of Masaka. It is a rural area with most people earning their living by small scale farming. There are a number of schools in the area, including one secondary one, Kitengesa Comprehensive Secondary School, with which the library has a close partnership: all members of the school have free access to the library, and the library provides scholarships to seven students in return for the scholars' help in library administration. The library works closely with the neighbouring primary school too and offers special Children's Days for children whose schools are further away. There is also a Women's Group based on the library which acts as both a rural development organization and an adult education and family literacy class. The library thus works with multiple sectors of the community, providing access to books, and, since January 2012, access to computers and the internet and training in using them. In developing these services, the librarian and his assistants have been helped over the past five years by volunteers who come to Kitengesa regularly from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

Among the schools near the library is the Good Samaritan School for the Deaf.  It teaches Ugandan sign language to deaf children, gives them a primary education, and provides a vocational training programme in tailoring, knitting, and hair dressing.  At present it has 78 boarding and 30 day students. Despite the school's excellent work, its students remain isolated from the larger community. Few Ugandans know sign language, and even within their own families and still more beyond them, deaf children are often regarded as mentally retarded and unable to contribute to society. In addition, the school suffers from the lack of resources characteristic of many Ugandan primary schools. As a community-based organization (CBO) it depends mainly on private donations, which are barely enough to cover the basic requirements of food, tuition, and health care. The library can address this lack, as it does for children in other schools, by providing access to books, computers, and the internet. More importantly, by bringing Good Samaritan's students into regular contact with other library users--of whom there are some 650 currently active--it can help to overcome their isolation and the prejudice against them.

The service was initiated in June 2012. It has included the following activities:
•    From June till August, the deaf children received English lessons from a visiting volunteer.
•    Since then, groups of deaf children have been coming to the library on a casual basis to read and socialize.
•    The children use the library's computer equipment every Saturday to talk via Skype to the volunteers who worked with them.
•    Teachers at the Good Samaritan School for the Deaf are learning how to use the computers.
•    The library scholars are learning sign language.
•    The library has a Sign Language Club so that other hearing students can learn it.

The key players in these activities are:
•    The director of Good Samaritan School for the Deaf, Ms. Scovia Nsamba.
•    Two UBC volunteers, Nidhi Joseph and Ooi Koon Peng, who initiated the project and continue to support it now they have returned to Canada.
•    Another volunteer, DaYe Jeong, who is raising funds to pay for the library's internet access in the coming year (unlimited access costs USD 1250 per year).
•    Nakasiita Rosemary, a library scholar who already knew sign language before the project started and is teaching it to the others.
•    The librarian, Ahimbisibwe Daniel, who looks after the volunteers, trains the library scholars, and oversees all library activities.
•    The assistant librarian, Gorreth Nakyato, who facilitates the Sign Language Club and keeps the library's records.
•    The computer assistant, Julius Ssentume, who keeps the computers in order and monitors use of the internet.

The initiative has had immediate effects.  The isolation of the deaf has at least partly been broken down.
•    About 20 children from Good Samaritan visit the library every week.
•    These 20 children have become proficient in using Skype.
•    Three library scholars are proficient in Ugandan Sign Language.
•    The Sign Language Club has 30 members, of whom 20 students and 5 non-students can now talk to the deaf children.

Here are some remarks written by the deaf children about their experience at the library:

Lydia: From help of the library, we, deaf students know more English apart from what we have been taught at school. ... Moreover, we also learn from other community members by interacting with them.

Joseph: Imagine if a place like this wasn't established in our community! Where would we get to know such things a part from school? Thank you for the establishment.

Eseza, Nakayenga, Pius, and Sharon: We also thank the library for allowing us to organize our sign language class. We have been teaching sign languages to students from neighbouring school, and as a request we wish that sign language dictionaries and books would be available at the library. Thus, sign language will be more accessible to other people and they will continue to learn sign languages during academic break.

Christine: We also request to be taught how to use computers so we can develop our skills and thank others for the time and incomes that have been invested in us when we come to library to use Skype.

This is an extract from a letter written to us by Mrs. Scovia Nsamba: The [Good Samaritan] school has limited resources to enhance learning and the library is a good place for them to go for learning, interact with the world outside their own of the fellow deaf at school but integrate to the community through the activities at the library like sign language classes, indoor games and accessing reading materials like dictionaries, text book, news papers, novel and many more, which we can't provide at school. Our pupils are very happy because of the opportunity presented to them by the library to enable them to communicate with their friends in Canada through skype which is amazing and the computer training for our staff to be able to teach the students and manage our school records.  I personally have benefited a lot from the library through reading books to improve on my English, health and general understanding, joining the family literacy class with Goreth and working with Women's group to uplift our standards of living and fight poverty in our area.  The community library has become one the favorite place our pupils to learn and socialise and a pivot for community integration for development.

The photographs show the deaf children being taught by Koon Peng, their using a computer to Skype their Canadian friends, and the pictures on the computer screen. Their facial expressions are the best evidence of how much this contact means to them.

At computer.jpgVolunteerKPwDeafChldn.JPGSkype photo (3).jpg




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FAVL Blog

Books, reading, and libraries relevant to Africa by Michael Kevane, co-Director of FAVL and economist at Santa Clara University.

Other contributors include Kate Parry, FAVL-East Africa director, Peace Corps volunteer Emilie Crofton, Krystle Austin, Elisee Sare, and Monique Nadembega.

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