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Background: Although education in Africa is expanding, little is being done to support learners’ literacy outside the school. Rural people have little access to books and so cannot develop their reading skills.
Purpose of Study: The project described here has both an educational and a research purpose: to complement formal schooling by making reading material available to students and others, and to document the development of new literacy practices by investigating and recording readers’ preferences.
Setting: The site is near the trading center of Kitengesa in Masaka District in Uganda. It is a rural area where most people depend on subsistence farming and the sale of food and cash crops. Many have been to school, however, and basic literacy is widespread.
While in Senegal, Donkoui and Elisee, FAVL Burkina coordinators, visited a number of libraries around Dakar. One depressing visit was to a community library started by a youth association. The library was no more, just empty shelves, and the association had switched to promoting a weight room. What would Arnold Schwarzenegger say? Room for both, one would hope!
Not withstanding school libraries in Sierra Leone are not given much recognition as the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST)has no clear-cut policies on these institutions. Their development depends on the enthusiasm of head teachers and the quality of service rendered by the few existing school libraries depends on the type of school the library is serving. In primary schools the provisions of libraries are inadequate as compared to those in secondary schools where the level of organization is dependent on who is sponsoring the school. For example old well established mission schools like the Sierra Leone Grammar School, the Anne Walsh Memorial Secondary School for Girls and Saint Edwards Secondary School in Freetown, and a few government maintained schools like the Government Secondary School in Bo, have better collections than the majority of schools in the country, especially those that started as self-help schools. These schools have poor library collections because of the uncertainty of funding. Old Students Associations fund some schools and in turn have good collections. A few private schools, especially those run by internationals such as Lebanese International School has good collections. The majority of government supported schools offer the poorest quality of education especially those run on commercial enterprises. These hardly have libraries and pupils of these schools have to rely on the services of the Sierra Leone Library Board (SLLB) and other libraries like the British Council and the United States Information Services (USIS),where available. Some of the few existing school libraries are fast disappearing making way for classrooms because of increased intake.
Most schools lack qualified staff to run their libraries because of the non-availability of funds to pay professional librarians. The trend has been to employ library assistants who in most cases are school leavers with or without West African Secondary School Certificate of Education (WASSCE). Some schools put the library under the charge of a teacher.
2008 marks PULA’s 5-year anniversary as an organization devoted to providing libraries and books to needful communities in Africa. Since its inception in 2003, PULA has, with your generous support…
… donated funds for the construction of a library for Malawi Children’s Village (an AIDS orphanage) to serve both the orphanage and the surrounding community. In addition, PULA shipped 3,000 pounds of books to the library and provided funding for librarian training. Since its completion, the MCV Library has been designated “best library in the region” and has been awarded several computer study stations by the American Embassy in Malawi.
…partnered with Murumba Uganda to build a community library in Butiru, Uganda, and secured a $5,000 grant for the purchase of new library books, most of them with African storylines and themes.
…worked in cooperation with the Children’s Centre at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka to set up primary school libraries throughout the area. Over twenty schools now participate in this ongoing program and receive African children’s literature, textbooks, and educational books, courtesy of PULA.
According to their website:
Bibliothèque Lecture Développement est une association sénégalaise fondée par des professionnels du livre, des sociologues et des pédagogues. Elle veut promouvoir la culture et l’éducation en mettant des bibliothèques à la disposition des populations et en facilitant l'accès aux TICs.
While FAVL, like IFLA, addresses human rights on an international level, it does so without the massive organizational support that IFLA garners, being, rather, a non-profit, grass roots community organization, started by a business professor from Santa Clara University. a brief but worthwhile aside, it is insightful to point out that the grass roots example of FAVL gestures at another element of Globalization to which Global Libraries must provide alternative. This is the idea of top-down versus bottom-up approaches. Returning to Prahalad, he shows that in business, as in libraries, for initiatives and ventures to succeed globally, one must begin at the bottom, rather than at the top, for the “trickle down” ideas of the past—whether they are applied to business ventures or information initiatives—have been proven to only benefit the elite at the top.16 One can see evidence of this idea even in the difference between IFLA’s approach—authoring a Resolution and publishing texts on information science—and FAVL’s approach—actually going into communities and constructing, managing, and supporting community libraries. This is not to say that IFLA’s efforts are in vain—quite the contrary—but it does illustrate the importance of approaching Global Libraries issues from the bottom-up, rather that the top-down, to avoid similar issues, inequalities, and oppressions that have arisen from the top-down ventures by corporations and multi-national organizations (which have shown the significant shortcomings—to put it lightly—of Globalization in the realm of human rights and general equality on a global scale).
What were the major factors that inspired you into writing?The full interview is on this fine blog EverythinLiterature by Sumaila Isah of Kaduna's New Nigerian Newspapers.
It was simply, principally, the great allure and romance of the spoken word. There was a magic to it all. There was even the chivalry; our great loves; the young, beautiful women – our peers of course – to whom we addressed great love letters; and long agonized poems declaring love in bold, exaggerated verse. They were mostly the beautiful girls from the Holy Rosary School – the Girls Secondary School in Umuahia. But of course, one absorbed the nature of words from reading. I remember quite clearly, when I was in primary four, and my mother was reading Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country, Ngugi’s Weep Not Child, and Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God. And that was when I read her copy of those books. I was moved by the landscape of Weep Not Child, and Njoroge’s experience within it. As children, we would go to the beautiful Umuahia Divisional Library, which had a fine children’s section in those days, and opened on Saturdays from 9 am to 3:00 pm, and we encountered books, and such things. It was a healthy place to be. That absorption with books, indirectly inspired my own efforts, and in many ways, it was always, not a philosophical question, but a simple attraction to utterance for its own sake. I wrote to amuse my friends and myself. In some ways, occasionally, to impress the beautiful maiden of one’s dream of that season, with what one felt was the important, even sometimes, blinding genius of one’s utterance.
Here's the first extract:
“This began as a necessity; then it became an obligation; and after that a custom,” he explained, squinting at the hills undulating into the horizon. “Now,” he said, “it is an institution.”Wow, this guy is an amazing wordsmith. Few could have come up with a more succinct pitch line! I'm super-jealous.
The article goes on:
Unlike Mr. García Márquez, who lives in Mexico City, Mr. Soriano has never traveled outside Colombia — but he remains dedicated to bringing its people a touch of the outside world. His project has won acclaim from the nation’s literacy specialists and is the subject of a new documentary by a Colombian filmmaker, Carlos Rendón Zipaguata.... After Mr. Gossaín broadcast details of Mr. Soriano’s project on his radio program, book donations poured in from throughout Colombia. A local financial institution, Cajamag, provided some financing for the construction of a small library next to his home, but the project remains only half-finished for lack of funds.So.... what are we to conclude now? This philosopher-social entrepreneur is actually... not very successful at creating an institution? Does he keep accounts for all the donations received? Where is the investigative journalism? Oh right, it is whimsical... He's riding a donkey with books, why hold him to any normal standard of accountability. (I told you it would get snarky.)
The story continues:
They stole one item from his book pouch: “Brida,” the story of an Irish girl and her search for knowledge, by the Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho. For some reason, Paulo Coelho is at the top of everyone’s list of favorites,” said Mr. Soriano...Having picked up a Coehlo self-help book at an airport once, thinking it was serious reading because foreign, and discovering it was Jonathan Livingston Seagull redux (a book I thrilled to as a twelve year old, BTW...) I'm surprised at the lack of irony here all around.
The article ends:
In the village of El Brasil, Ingrid Ospina, 18, leafed through a copy of “Margarita,” the classic book of poetry by Rubén Darío of Nicaragua...Well, OK, now I have a tear coming down my cheek... who can complain about Ruben Dario, or be snarky? I read him all through high school in Puerto Rico...
Read the full story here...
And by the way... Blattman made me do it ;-)