Book Boxes to Rural Zimbabwe
Rural Outreach Program & Rural Schools Book -Boxes
The town library serves as a base for the rural outreach. The organization now provides book boxes to 31 elementary schools – of which 27 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 one third of all the children of this age group in the district.
Book boxes are purpose-built to be transportable, with approximately 300 books in each, easily accessible. Most of the books are supplementary reading material, both fiction and non-fiction, in English and in the local languages. Teachers from the receiving schools are invited each school holiday to come to 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 the organization’s van. In January 2019, 29 boxes were delivered to 27 rural schools, with a combined enrolment of just over 9,000 children, and 9 boxes went to 4 urban schools, with a combined enrolment of just under 3,000.
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. In this way, children always have books available throughout the school term for reading. Unfortunately, it is not possible to make the books available to them during the school holidays, as generally the teachers will not be there. Some books are always included for the teachers, for professional and leisure use, and for community members.
The Book Boxes programme has inspired a new model for rural library services. Adults use the books too
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.
Boxes are built sturdily, but still, they get damaged on the very rough roads. In 2018 one of our donors, ELMA, an American organization based in Cape Town which supports children’s programmes, provided funds for us to construct 15 new boxes. Some of these replaced damaged boxes, but we hope to be able to add a few more schools to our programmes as well. There is such an enormous demand for our services that if we had the capacity we could easily double this work.
Several libraries like these have been constructed in rural areas where children and adults have access. This is Selonga Primary School and Community Library.
Construction of School Libraries
Our long-term goal is that schools and communities begin to understand the importance of libraries and build and support their own. This dream is now beginning to be realized. Parents and grandparents and other community members have begun prioritizing the provision of library services to cater for both children and adults.
Two communities have already constructed purpose-built libraries while one more is partly built. Selonga library caters for secondary school pupils as well as elementary pupils, and now has a collection of 4,000 books. Seven other communities have converted unused classrooms and storerooms to serve effectively as libraries. We are most encouraged by these developments because it means that our work is bearing fruit. Although these schools still receive our book boxes, we can envisage a time in the near future when they become completely independent in raising their own funds and books.
The completed Samlodi Community Library, Gwanda South. A look inside the library
Additional Book Boxes from Book Aid International
In 2019 Book Aid International has helped us to extend the book box programme to ten additional communities. They asked us to choose most disadvantaged communities, which is difficult as all rural communities in Gwanda district are deprived. The ten we chose are in Gwanda South, mostly where SeSotho is the first language. These schools will each receive a book box which will remain at the school rather than rotating, They will receive a significant number of Sotho books. ENMT will be responsible for delivering the boxes and monitoring and the teachers will participate in our workshop programmes to ensure the books are effectively used.
Book Aid International donation awaiting delivery