Development of Sustainable African Libraries as Centers of Literacy and Languages Development in Uganda and Ethiopia
Gulere, Cornelius Wambi
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The joint action research sets out to deepen knowledge and understanding of key issues in libraries as centers of literacy and languages development in Uganda and Ethiopia. The School Library (SL) and Community Library (CL) approaches have been used for more than two decades in Ethiopia and a decade in Uganda. But, their effectiveness and impact has not been researched. The need is to document the experiences of UgCLA in Uganda and CODE Ethiopia; and to analyse the lessons learned for possible replication in the African practices. In Uganda, we found community libraries and, in some instances, rural private primary school libraries as some of the most effective models for instilling a love of reading in children and their families. Joined together under Uganda Community Library Association (UgCLA), some of these libraries have received the support of Friends of African Village libraries to carry out their activities. They operate in spaces donated by individuals, schools and communities. The books procured from the local market, donated and sometimes supplied by national library of Uganda in conjunction with Book AID International are mostly in English. Reading materials in local languages are very scarce both in homes and community. The few that exist are in schools and even these are inadequate as they are used only during class time. The children and parents have no opportunity to read with their children and so the children have limited time to practice reading their mother tongue on their own outside the classroom. UgCLA has helped libraries in Busoga Cluster to gather, write and create books on the African Storybooks project where 24 out of 120 stories have been published. This experience is to being replicated into 17 other languages that constitute 75 % of the languages used in Uganda. Similarly, CODE Ethiopia (CE), working with government and school libraries has achieved the same goal of literacy development in rural and semi-urban communities. Since 1994, CE has established 97 community libraries in 97 different districts of the country. CE has a practical model of establishing and transferring the ownership of the libraries to respective communities and government organizations. However, it keeps supporting them whenever there is material, financial and technical support. CE is working with CODE and IREX/Beyond Access in new literacy development activities using tablets in the ‘Hacking Literacy Approach’ to create community libraries, develop supplementary materials, distribute readers for free, train librarians, book developers and Library Management Committees and to acquire and distribute books obtained through donations and local purchase. CE also holds the Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature. The study is looking into ways of improving access to literacy materials to which the libraries have contributed but have no significant access. Mentoring of story writers and readers in content creation and establishing, strengthening and monitoring of reading clubs and literacy facilitators is on-going to hopefully impact positively on the availability and use of the literacy materials on the market. The study is documenting the stories of 12 selected libraries in Uganda and Ethiopia and the library activities put in place.