Getting Ready for International School Library Month

01 Oct 2011

October is International School Library Month — Do you have something planned?  We asked Hosea Tokwe to describe what he did last year in Gweru for this special event.

Gweru Schools Celebration 2010

Today in Zimbabwe, the role of the School Library has taken a back seat. Not enough lobbying and advocacy has been done for establishment and development of School Libraries. In the early eighties the Zimbabwe Library Association had played its part by creating clusters in different provinces, with schools being encouraged to promote library usage among pupils. The Zimbabwe Library Association collaborated with the Ministry of Education and Culture and operated a School Library Service, ensuring that libraries were an integral feature of the schools’ programme. Alas, the momentum has hardly been maintained. Perhaps the under-performance of the book industry has negatively impacted on the availability of books in school libraries, thus undermining and diminishing their roles.

Whatever the reason, I found myself motivated to play my part to return school libraries to the mainstream of learning by organizing the first International School Library Month celebration here in Gweru, Zimbabwe. It was always going to be an immense challenge. Apart from getting everyone else motivated, I had a tight schedule combining may paid work and my commitment to the success of this event. I could not do much during working hours, and so the bulk of the arrangements had to be made using my own resources outside working hours. I would make frantic efforts to get in touch with organizations, school heads, school librarians, and the high authorities of the Ministry of Education and Culture, who would give the green light for the event to take place.

I succeeded in securing a venue from the CJR Primary School in central Gweru: the Headmistress and her school librarian also assisted in the distribution of invitations to various schools and we were given use of the school hall. With a positive response from four high schools and six primary schools, all was set for the International School Library Month march. I approached the Police traffic section and they agreed to marshal the procession. The procession took off at 1015 a.m. from outside Stanley Primary School, took the route via Third Street, passed the rural bus terminus, through Robert Mugabe Road, then turned into Eighth Street through Gweru Memorial Library. Built in 1893, this Library still stands despite lack of support in terms of funding and refurbishment. Our procession was led by the CJR School drum majorettes, and created a stir in the mid-morning traffic as office workers, early shoppers and the general public stopped to take in the parade. As they marched, the school children sang their own theme song that they had composed themselves that morning: ‘One School, One Library, One Librarian.’

Arriving at CJR School, the participants posed for a group photo before proceeding to the school hall for the main celebrations. The Deputy School Head gave a keynote speech. Addressing the gathering, the Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Library Association- Midlands Branch spoke of the need for every school to not only have a library, but also set up a Library Committee to work alongside School Development Committee and parents for the sake of maintaining the libraries. He said according to a survey the Zimbabwe Library Association – Midlands Branch had carried out, only a third of the schools in Gweru have libraries. His Branch of the Association intends to write to Book Aid International for more help to the schools in the Midlands Province.

The International School Library Month celebration in Gweru was a day well worth organizing and remembering. It is gratifying to note that cooperation of all the schools that took part. Above all, the CJR Primary School headmistress played a pivotal role in hosting the event. The success of this event has been a giant step forward for Gweru Schools. Zimbabwe Schools need libraries, and the local Zimbabwe Library Association – Midlands Branch will set up a Committee to look into involving other stakeholders in 2011 for the successful and most memorable celebration in mid-October.

Hosea Tokwe (Midlands State University – Chief Library Assistant) organized the first International School Library Month celebrations in the city of Gweru late last year. The writer, who lives in Gweru, can be contacted by e-mail at: [email protected] or [email protected]

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October 2011