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Nov 7, 2014

Guest Blog: The Thrill of a New School Library

Guest Blogger Arcbord Mweetwa
Guest Blogger Arcbord Mweetwa

Arcbord Mweetwa works for Room to Read Zambia on our School Libraries program. He recently shared his experience with us about the excitment of not just the children--but the parents--when a new school library opened at a Primary School in Zambia's Southern Province.

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Earlier this year, Mutumbi Primary School in Zambia celebrated the opening of its very own Room to Read library. Situated in a farming village 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) north of Mazabuka in Zambia's Southern Province, the school enrolls 375 children. On the library’s opening day, parents of the village were invited to come see the library and learn about the work of Room to Read. I jumped at the chance to visit the school and speak with parents about the importance of reading and the role they play in developing their children’s reading habits.

When I arrived, I found a number of parents already seated outside the school anxiously waiting for the presentation to begin. The head teacher, Mr. Malasha, introduced me as one of the most important guests of the day and made me the first speaker. Although I had a speech ready, I wasn’t prepared for such an honor!


After I introduced myself and the work of Room to Read, I asked all of the parents to stand up and follow me to the library. For most of them, this was the first time they had ever entered a library. As they looked at the colorful shelves filled with books, I could see smiles on their faces and their eyes light up in amazement as they flipped through the pages of some of the books.

We gathered back outside, and I asked them what they had seen in the library. “Chairs and tables! Shelves! Books and games!” they replied. I then told them that everything they had seen had been provided by Room to Read, but there was not enough furniture for all of the children in the school. “Do you think you can help Room to Read by providing the library with mats and stools for your children to sit on?” I asked. Now that the parents had seen how great the library was for themselves, they quickly shouted in reply, “We shall do so!”

My heart was glad to see the parents enthusiastic about contributing to the library for their children. As I came to my last point, I was confident I would drive it home. “Parents, you are your child’s first teacher! Imagine if you added the habit of reading to the list of good habits you already teach your children, table manners, respect for elders, and good hygiene. What would happen?” I asked them.

“Encourage your kids to borrow books from the library, and find time to read with them at home. If you instill the habit of reading in your children, you and your children will surely change the face of this world.”

Learn more about our work in Zambia.

 

 

Inside the library
Inside the library
Jun 30, 2014

Building Sustainable Libraries in Zambia

Ceremonial library opening in Chilanga
Ceremonial library opening in Chilanga

The below report is a recent story from the field in Zambia, highlighting the process of handing over Room to Read libraries to the local community with Room to Read libraries once the three year of Room to Read support has ended.

Sustainability. It’s a word that is now being used to talk about everything from food to clothes to businesses, and about everything in between. Sustainability has become a well-established buzzword, perhaps because there just are not very many good synonyms for the idea, or perhaps because it helps sell coffee, but mostly because it matters. At Room to Read, when we talk about sustainability in education, we’re talking about respecting the dignity and agency of all people, and empowering and equipping communities to take hold of their futures. Sustainability also matters in a world where there are far more things to do than time in which to do them. We need to know that what we’re doing is leading us to a better tomorrow, and that the investments we make can last. This was the precisely question in the air at a recent ceremony handing over 43 school libraries supported by Room to Read in Zambia to the local districts, Chilanga and Kafue.

Samantha M., who has been investing in these libraries and training teachers and librarians for the past three years there, attended the ceremonial passing of the torch to the Zambian Library Service. Even though Samantha knew that this transfer of responsibility was necessary for sustainability, and that it would enable them to start new projects in order to reach more communities in need, she couldn’t help but worry. Like a caring parent watching her child graduate, she says, “I sat listening attentively to the speeches with mixed feelings and worried about a number of things. Of course my first reaction was that I would miss working in these schools and with the Head teachers and the Teacher Librarians in whom I had invested a lot.” She also worried about the improvements she still wanted to make in some of the schools and wanted to know that the new caretaker would help support the libraries and communities. Her fears were put to rest as she listened to the Zambian Library Service representative outline their mandate. “Listening to his speech felt like he was reading our own strategy.” She recalls sharing a knowing glance with our Zambian country director as they both felt a wave of relief knowing these 43 school libraries would be in good hands. “Now we can safely direct our efforts to other districts knowing it is well with Chilanga and Kafue!”

At Room to Read we are very proud of the fact that we have been able to reach over 8,000,000 children, and have built more than 16,000 libraries. While we love building and establishing libraries and watching our progress numbers go up, we are much more anxious that these libraries continue to function at their highest capacity because a library that thrives helps children to thrive.

Therefore, after enough time had passed, we revisited a large sample of libraries years after they had completed our three year project support cycle to see if they were still functioning. We were eager to know whether or not our work was achieving sustainability. An amazing 97% of these libraries were still functioning, and many had made additional quality improvements. And thanks to improved library monitoring and evaluation and community engagement strategies, we expect this trend to go even further so that millions more children may have access to a quality library and a quality education for years to come. 

Room to Read is grateful to GlobalGiving donors who support our work in Zambia and make it possible to establish libraries that are effective and sustainable, and will impact students for years to come. Thank you!

Zambia Country Director delivers certificates
Zambia Country Director delivers certificates

Links:

Mar 31, 2014

Story from the Field: Library Success in Zambia

Abigail, an 8th grader in Zambia, always dreamed of becoming a nurse, but that career path always seemed out of reach. That all changed when Room to Read established a library at her school, because she was now able to access books that could help her advance her education.

Abigail’s enthusiasm for the new library caught the attention of her teachers and classmates, and they chose her as a pupil librarian, responsible for re-shelving books as well as the general cleanliness of the library. For Abigail, this just meant having more time in the library and more opportunities to read!

Although at times she still struggles to read books in the local language, since the establishment of the library, Abigail’s English-language fluency has greatly improved, allowing her to participate more in class.

“I am confident I can continue building on my dream career from the valuable information I obtain from the science books in the library,” Abagail says. “I’m able to participate actively in most of the lessons and wish to improve my arithmetic and local language skills as well. With the library books I am now getting the help that I needed.”

Abigail now shares the stories she reads from the library with her two younger cousins, Thomas and James. Through storytelling and simple arts and writing activities, Abigail has turned her home into a mini classroom. Thomas and James are now equally avid readers and have even started borrowing library books for themselves. For Thomas, a 2nd grade student, his goal is to read as many storybooks as he can so he can narrate some of them to his parents. One day he even hopes to be able to read aloud to everyone at a school assembly. Third grader James aspires to improve his English vocabulary in order to be the top student in class.

Every week, Abigail and her two cousins read at least one storybook to each other at home, sharing their dreams and encouraging each other to reach their goals. “I feel like I am on top of the world because the library is the key to my future dream,” Abigail says.

Dec 27, 2013

Story from the Field: The success of a school library in Zambia

During the reporting period, the School Library program team continued implementing the activities and program components reported on in our previous GlobalGiving reports. In this report, we want to deeply thank Global Giving donors for your support and generosity by sharing a story from the field. This story features a success story from a school library in Zambia.

_________________________________

When the new library was first established at a Zambian Community School in 2011, the school did not have a dedicated librarian. Teachers at the school shared library management responsibilities and implemented activities for their classes during designated library periods. When Jennifer Choonya, a local community member, learned about this, she eagerly offered to serve as a volunteer librarian for the school.

As a mother of four children, Jennifer sees the library as a hugely beneficial resource for the community. She was forced to drop-out of school as a Grade 9 student and is determined to keep her own children and the children of her community from suffering the same fate. Although she lives in Chikumba, a village about five kilometres away from the school, she walks to the school every day, regardless of the weather conditions, to ensure the library is available for the students.

After volunteering to serve as the school’s librarian, Jennifer was trained by Room to Read in various aspects of library management. Her daily tasks range from cleaning the library, shelving and sorting books, selecting books for students, and helping students locate books within the library. Thanks to Jennifer, the students at the school now have access to the library throughout the day, outside of their regularly scheduled library periods.

Jennifer says that she draws her passion for the library and helping children learn to read from her own disappointment at having to drop-out of school. She hopes that by volunteering her time, all of the students at the school will be able to excel in their studies and become better educated citizens, with greater employment possibilities. She, in turn, has also been inspired by the enthusiasm of the students, and has decided to rewrite her Grade 9 exams so she can graduate from secondary school herself.

 

When the new library was first established at a Zambian Community School in 2011, the school did not have a dedicated librarian. Teachers at the school shared library management responsibilities and implemented activities for their classes during designated library periods. When Jennifer Choonya, a local community member, learned about this, she eagerly offered to serve as a volunteer librarian for the school.

 

As a mother of four children, Jennifer sees the library as a hugely beneficial resource for the community. She was forced to drop-out of school as a Grade 9 student and is determined to keep her own children and the children of her community from suffering the same fate. Although she lives in Chikumba, a village about five kilometres away from the school, she walks to the school every day, regardless of the weather conditions, to ensure the library is available for the students.

 

After volunteering to serve as the school’s librarian, Jennifer was trained by Room to Read in various aspects of library management. Her daily tasks range from cleaning the library, shelving and sorting books, selecting books for students, and helping students locate books within the library. Thanks to Jennifer, the students at the school now have access to the library throughout the day, outside of their regularly scheduled library periods.

 











Jennifer says that she draws her passion for the library and helping children learn to read from her own disappointment at having to drop-out of school. She hopes that by volunteering her time, all of the students at the school will be able to excel in their studies and become better educated citizens, with greater employment possibilities. She, in turn, has also been inspired by the enthusiasm of the students, and has decided to rewrite her Grade 9 exams so she can graduate from secondary school herself.
Sep 25, 2013

Update on our School Library program in Zambia

Update on this project

Over the last few months, libraries in the School Libraries program in Zambia have been receieving book and educational material deliveries, and have been able to start setting up the libraries. After they are fully set up, schools begin to engage students and families in the new library. This includes hosting orientation meetings with communities, parent meetings, and reading and literacy events, all of which begin to occur in September.

In addition, school employees have undergone three trainings in preparation for running the library, including: Library management Skills training, Basic Construction Techniques and Project Management training, and Building Maintenance training. By completing these trainings, school librarians, teachers and community members learn the necessary skills for library management, which helps to ensure the success of the new library.

 

Program Highlight: Challenge Grant model in Zambia

In our last report, we described Room to Read’s efforts to ensure project sustainability and longevity through involving families and communities, often as library volunteers. Below is a more detailed description of Room to Read’s Challenge Grant model, which highlights the importance of stakeholder involvement during the actual library and school construction process. This section describes how it functions specifically in our Constructed School Libraries program in Zambia.

Room to Read’s Challenge Grant model is central to our program, especially in Zambia, where our School Construction and School Libraries programs work together to establish constructed libraries. Constructed libraries are stand-alone library buildings while our classroom libraries are rooms within an existing school that have been turned into a children’s library. Once we choose a constructed library project site, community members must provide reasonable, but significant, contributions to the project to match Room to Read’s funding.  Through our Challenge Grant, we engage communities in the project and build the skills that they will need to maintain the new infrastructure.  Our Challenge Grant consists of three main components:  Community Participation, Community Contribution, and Maintenance.

In Zambia, communities participate in the constructed libraries project through the formation of a School Construction Committee (SCC). The SCC brings together various stakeholders such as school leaders, teachers, villagers, and commune council chiefs/members to work with each other and with Room to Read to construct and establish the library. The SCC’s primary roles in Zambia include raising the required community contribution, co-managing the construction project with Room to Read, overseeing the project site during construction, monitoring quality and progress, and keeping accurate financial and technical records.

Thanks to your generous donations, the school is able to have a spacious, print-rich environment in which its students can develop a love for and the habit of reading.

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

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Organization

Room to Read

San Francisco, California, United States
http://www.roomtoread.org

Project Leader

Cyndie Berg

San Francisco, CA United States

Where is this project located?