Book Boxes to Rural Zimbabwe
Rural Outreach Program to Rural Schools
The town library serves as a base for the rural outreach to District. The organization now provides book boxes to 80 primary (elementary) schools – of which 75 are rural schools. In Zimbabwe this includes kindergarten and grades 1 to 7, covering ages 4 to 12. Through this programme we are reaching approximately two thirds of all the children of this age group in the district, providing 28,000 library books to 29,000 children.
Most of the books are supplementary reading material in English, both fiction and non-fiction. A large number are provided by Book Aid International, a charity based in the U.K. We also buy books published locally, especially those in local languages spoken in the district, SiNdebele and SeSotho.
There are three different programmes: Rotating Book Boxes, Pioneer Book Boxes, and Inspiring Readers Programme
Adults from the community use the books as well
1. Rotating Book Boxes
Twenty-seven rural schools and 5 urban schools are participating in this programme. We have built specially designed boxes which are easily transportable and which hold approximately 300 books each. Teachers from the receiving schools are invited each school holiday to come to the Gwanda library where the books are stored, to make a selection for their school. The boxes are then prepared by library staff.
At the beginning of each school term, the boxes are delivered to the schools by our van. The schools are responsible for the administration and use of the books. At the end of the term the boxes are collected and taken to Gwanda for checking, replacement and repair, and the cycle begins again, with different books. In this way, children always have books available throughout the school term for reading.
Unfortunately, it is in most cases not possible to make the books available to them during the school holidays. Some books are always included for the teachers, for professional and leisure use, and for community members.
In most cases, children have no books of their own, as there are no other libraries, and so these are the only books they have to read other than their textbooks, which may also be in short supply. Without this additional reading provided by the book boxes, few children develop the skill, habit and enjoyment of reading both for gaining information and for leisure. The books thus promote literacy and a culture of reading.
We found that this model worked for the original 27 schools, but we did not have the capacity to expand it to other schools crying out for library assistance as well. Book Aid International helped us to establish two other programmes.
Pioneer Boxes being prepared for distribution
2. Pioneer Book Boxes
Starting in 2019, Book Aid International provided us with books and boxes to supply to disadvantaged schools. These boxes have become a permanent collection for these schools, and have motivated them to have a more organised library.
Whenever we have the resources, we will add to their libraries. In 2020 and 2021 we added more schools, and now 43 schools have received these boxes. Some are very deprived schools established within former white-owned commercial farms, using old farm buildings as there are no specially constructed classrooms.
Inspiring readers library at Sibona Primary School
3. Inspiring Readers Programme
In 2021 Book Aid International sponsored a third programme. Five schools have received a larger collection of books and a cupboard to hold them. These also do not rotate, and become a part of their permanent library collection. All of these books were distributed in September 2021 when the schools re-opened after the COVID closures.