The 4th African Library Summit & 2nd AfLIA Conference, Yaoundé Cameroon
Two Colorado librarians were among the 127 attendees at the 4th African Library Summit & 2nd AfLIA Conference held in Yaounde, Cameroon. Janet Lee, Chair of the International Library and Cultural Exchange Interest Group, collaborated with Dr. Shimelis Assefa, Professor at the Morgridge College of Education Library and Information Science Program at the University of Denver on a paper “Public Libraries as a Place to Advance Tolerance,” which surveyed libraries in Colorado and across the nation on programs and practices that promote tolerance. Dr. Assefa also presented on “Data and Information Literacy.” Janet partnered with newly Returned Peace Corps Ethiopia Volunteer, Ben Rearick, a student in the University of Michigan’s Library and Information Science Program, on a poster “A Hyena’s Tale: Introducing Children to the Power of Reading in Ethiopia.” Dr. Assefa also presented a poster “The well-being of Nations and what Libraries can do to Help: The Case for Africa.” A version of the Lee/Rearick poster has been accepted for the International Poster Session at the American Library Association conference in Chicago in June.
Over 45 African countries sent representatives to the conference from Egypt to the north and South Africa to the south, South Africa once again sending the largest number of representatives. The conference was simultaneously translated from English to French and French to English serving the multi-lingual needs of conference attendees.
The University of Yaounde Choir opened the ceremonies with a round of musical selections. IFLA Secretary General Gerald Leitner and IFLA President-Elect Gloria Perez-Salmernon opened the conference. Both noted the strong presence of IFLA in Africa and its growing role in the development agenda: access to information. Deborah Jacobs, Global Libraries, followed and challenged African libraries to be the model for other regions of the world.
The next three days were filled with plenary sessions, keynote speakers, panels, an unconference, and exhibits. Many excellent presentations covered themes of Development Agenda, ICT in Academic/Research Libraries, Research Data, Role of Libraries in Building Peace and Justice in Africa, Libraries in the Development Agenda, Women, Youth, and Children’s Services in the Development Agenda, Preservation of Africa’s Culture and Heritage, and Linking the Cape Town Declaration with Africa’s Future. Attendees also represented all types of libraries: schools, public, academic, national and international. Each attendee received a CD complete with the full text of the presentations in lieu of a print copy of the proceedings.
There were ample opportunities to network with librarians from across Africa including a cultural evening with traditional dancing and an all-conference dinner closing the conference.
Because of a national holiday all libraries and businesses were closed canceling the anticipated library visits. However, attendees were able to visit the National Museum the evening prior.
The next African Library Summit will be held in Cape Town and the combined Summit and AfLIA conference in two years at a place to be determined.
Library Globetrotters: Library experience in five countries
Track: Wild Card
Canyon Maple A
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Colorado has many “globetrotters,” librarians who can share experiences in international libraries they visit or help. Four librarians will share their experiences in five countries. Nebeyou Nunamo, Ethiopia, will describe libraries in his home country and his immigrant experiences in the United States. Lisa Priebe spent the last three years in Whitehaven, Cumbria, England and will present a travelogue of rural libraries. Nancy Wood will describe the challenges, obstacles, and opportunities in building the first public library in Liberia. Sue Keefer will share her experiences in Nicaragua on the recent CAL tour. Enjoy an international experience!
Lisa Priebe is a former librarian from Colorado and has spent the past three years living in Whitehaven, Cumbria, England. She benefited from access to the community’s public library and historical archive centre. Lisa wishes to share what she has learned about the public libraries in and around Whitehaven during her marvelous adventure living in this beautiful green land where there are more sheep than people.
Nebeyou D Nunamo is originally from Ethiopia. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Information Science from Jimma University, in Jimma, Ethiopia, and Master’s in Library and Information Science from University of Denver. He is currently employed at the Aurora Public Library as a Library Assistant and is the web content manager for Yehabet Educational and Entertainment. In his current role with Yehabet Educational and Entertainment, he supervises four people located overseas and is responsible for the overall operation of the organization website (http://www.yehabet.com/), media collection, and marketing strategies. While at the Aurora Public Library Central Branch, he teaches classes, assists with circulation and records management using Sierra (Innovative Interfaces Inc.), provides instruction to customers in the use of the library resources and equipment, performs reference searches using online databases, provide patrons with information and reference services by accessing and demonstrating how to access information through books, computers, and media services.
Finally, he has a dream to be a world class data scientist. It always has been his dream to increase his leadership skills to contribute to the information organizations greater goal. He considers himself an innovator and a good leader and desires to be part of an organization that seeks a problem solver.
Nancy Wood serves as Branch Manager of Park County Public Library – Fairplay Branch.. When she co-founded “Hope for Children of Africa” in January of 2005, she was not a librarian. After recruiting a global alliance in 2010, to build the first public library in Liberia, West Africa, and was given the title of program manager, did she seek to become a librarian. She will share with us her adventure through a style of storytelling that she witnessed in Liberia. The presentation title is “Hearing a different drummer with a beat from West Africa”
Originally from northern Illinois, Sue Keefer has lived in Colorado since 1978. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and has worked on daily and weekly papers in Illinois, Iowa, and Colorado. She began her library career in 1983 and has worked at public libraries, school libraries, a bookmobile, and a prison library before receiving her MLS from Emporia State University in 2010, when she also was hired for my current position of Learning Resources Director of the Otero Junior College.
Going to Nicaragua was an amazing experience for her. The gratitude and smiles received for simply delivering books was a humbling experience. Being able to participate in the Anniversary Celebration was icing on the cake.
IFLA President, Donna Scheeder, to Speak at MPLA-CALCON 2016
Donna Scheeder, outgoing president of IFLA, will speak on So People May Know; Access to Information Around the World on Friday, October 21, at 5:00 p.m. This program is co-sponsored by the ILCE-IG of CAL.
Donna Scheeder is the current President for the International Federation of Library Associations, where her presidential theme is “Libraries: A Call to Action.”
Prior to becoming IFLA President, Ms. Scheeder served as the Deputy Chief Information Officer for the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress. She provided leadership for the provision of a wide range of information and collection services for the U.S. Congress, the Courts, the Executive Branch agencies and the public. Ms. Scheeder introduced a number of innovative services during her career including establishing the first collection of legal blogs and instituting the Electronic Briefing Book product for the Congress. She serves on the organizing committees for both the Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian conferences which place a heavy emphasis on showcasing the latest developments in the field and the innovative services that take advantage of those developments.
Ms. Scheeder has been a member of the IFLA Governing Board for 8 years including two as Treasurer. Her networking skills have been sharpened over her 45 year career and record of volunteer public service. She is a former President and Treasurer of the Special Library Association (SLA). She is also a SLA fellow and a recipient of the John Cotton Dana award given in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of special librarianship. She was elected to the SLA Hall of fame.
Ms. Scheeder lives on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. She is a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Hill Center and she also serves as Chair of the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee.
International Adult Beverage Reception
Please join us for an international adult beverage reception following Donna Scheeder’s program. We will be featuring adult beverages from around the world. Location to be announced.
Support the ILCE-IG through International Jewelry Purchases
Stop by Nancy Bolt’s booth in the exhibit area. A percent of all sales is donated to the ILCE-IG to be used for grants and programs.
Several members of ILCE-IG participated in the IFLA Congress in Columbus, OH. Many were first-timers. Some have attended and presented multiple times. 3100 delegates from 120 countries participated in this international congress.
Rita Puig, Regis University, and Jimena Sagas, Colorado State University, were named as North American IFLA Fellows with some of their expenses covered by the grant. They participated in an opening reception and were paired with a mentor. From this point forward, they will be part of a unique cohort of librarians who can call upon one another, share experiences, and network.
First Time Attendees
The First Time Attendees session was filled with useful tips on networking and getting involved in committees. Best piece of advice? Sit in on a committee of interest and introduce yourself.
ILCE-IG was well represented at the Poster Sessions.
Nancy Bolt and Janet Lee submitted “From Local to Global: How a Local Library Organization Can Impact International Librarianship,” relating the many activities that ILCE-IG has sponsored since its inception such as: mentoring, library partnerships, sister libraries, international travel, programming, advocacy, grants, and international education.
The poster was one of approximately 200 that were accepted. Click on this link for a detailed look at the poster and the poster proposal: http://library.ifla.org/1552/
Rita Puig discusses the Dual Language program at Regis University in “Building an Authentic Bilingual Library: Regis University’s Dual Language Learning Resources Center.”
Krystyna, K. Matusiak, Bridget Bowers, Kathryn Bodnar, Frank Andreas Sposito, and Giovanna Montano submitted “An International Collaborative Project between the University of Denver LIS students and the ENSSIB students in Lyon.” For more information on this project, check out the December 2015 issue of International Leads, http://www.ala.org/irrt/sites/ala.org.irrt/files/content/intlleads/leadsarchive/2015r.pdf
Nancy Bolt chaired a panel on “Guidelines for Library Service to People Experiencing Homelessness: Overview and Examples.” (Library Services to People with Special Needs). Panelists spoke on services in the U.S. Croatia, and Japan.
“Banned Books Week: What are we afraid of?
James LaRue of ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, presenter.
Opening Session. IFLA president, Donna Scheeder, opened the 82nd IFLA World Library and Information Congress. Cleveland Cavaliers announcer Olivier Sedra served as the Master of Ceremonies, and introduced a host of characters celebrating Ohio’s history. Appearances included animals from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, aerial acrobats, a drag queen, a tribute to astronaut and former Ohio senator John Glenn, the Columbus Gay Men’s Choir, a contemporary fashion show, and the distribution of Life Saver candies.
Conference reception. The Cultural Evening reception was held at the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) showcasing the culture of the city of Columbus and the United States. The evening’s
theme was “Coast to Coast,” with food and entertainment venues of five regions of the United States: Midwest, West Coast, South, Mountain West and East Coast. It was a great opportunity to meet colleagues from other nations and for international visitors to sample food from different regions of the U.S. including mac n cheese, pizza, sliders, and tofu.
Said Rita Puig, “It was fascinating to hear what librarians are doing in other countries to address issues such as team building, partnership between 1st world and 3rd world countries, learning strategies, capturing institutional knowledge, and innovation.”
August 2017: Wrocław, Poland
2018: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Axumite Heritage Foundation Library and Cultural Center, Axum, Ethiopia
by Janet Lee, Regis University
Axum, the historical city
Axum is an ancient city that flourished 400 BC as a great trading partner in the region. In 1980 UNESCO added it to its archaeological sites to its list of World Heritage Sites.
In 400 CE, a large segment of the population converted to Christianity, making Ethiopia one of the first predominately Christian nations in the world.
It is perhaps most well known for its stele, or obelisks, which date back to 5,000 to 2,000 BCE. The function is to serve as a marker for underground graves.
During the brief occupation by the Italians in the 1930s (Ethiopia having never been colonized by a European country), one of the major stele was appropriated by the Italians and shipped to Italy where it was reassembled and erected. After years of negotiations, an upgrade of the Axum airport, the stolen stele was returned to Ethiopia and placed in its proper place in the field of stele from 2005-2008.
Tradition has that the Arc of the Covenant is housed within the walls of the Church of St. Mary of Zion, thus the city is revered as a holy place. The Church is located within walking distances of stele fields.
Dungur Addi Kilte, popularly known as the remains of Queen of Sheba’s palace, but could also have been the palace of a wealthy Axumite. Excavated in the mid 1960s.
Tradition also has it that the reservoir pictured to the left is the Queen of Sheba baths. According to legend, Sheba had a tryst with Solomon, resulting in a child. From there is a long dynasty that included Emperor Haile Selassie. This story is repeated frequently in art work that is sold on nearly every street corner in major cities like Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia has its own written language, based on the ancient Ge’ez script, a church language.
New Axumite Heritage Foundation Library
While I was on sabbatical in 2010, working in Mekelle, I had an opportunity to meet Dr. Tsehaye Teffera, the founder of the Ethiopian Community Development Council, headquartered in Silver Spring, MD. He came to the library in Mekelle because he was about to embark on a new library project in Axum. In previous years, he had opened up a library in the old Governor’s Palace, but it was beginning to outgrow its space. Denver and Axum are Sister Cities, part of the International Sister Cities, International program, celebrating 20 years in this relationship August 2016.
At the time that I began working with Dr. Tsehaye, I heard that there was another Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, an engineer, who was working with him, also. By chance Dwight Sullivan and I were put in touch with each other and are collaborating on this project. I visited the new library building when it was in its infancy in 2013 and took this opportunity while traveling for another project to get an update. Each visit on this trip has left me in wonder at all that Dwight and Dr. Tsehaye have accomplished. No longer is it a shell of a building, but one that is very much nearing completion and at the stage where we can seriously start discussing library programming.
The concrete brick building has been faced with local stone from areas near Axum, including Adwa, the site of the infamous battle against the Italians, which Ethiopia won. Windows have been imported from nearby Dubai. Dwight has leant his mechanical expertise, and building skills, and shipped power tools to enable this project to be completed expeditiously. It is truly a work of art.
The entrance to the library is quite grand with two staircases leading up to the first floor. On either side of the staircases are accessible ramps that lead to the lower level and to upper floors. A rough in for an elevator is also available from the lower level to the third floor. This is significant because few buildings in Ethiopia are accessible for persons with disabilities.
The auditorium is nearly complete. It is accented with stone from local quarries. Dwight has found theatre seating, which is currently in a container ready to be shipped to Ethiopia and installed in the upcoming months. We discussed options for acoustics and will be creating cloth panels that will appear to be wall accents, but will serve to buffer the reverberations that were apparent in the room. The panels will have a version of Axumite crosses that are prevalent in this area.
A large room has been designated to serve as a set of classrooms that will have partitions to separate the larger area into four classrooms on an as needed basis.
The primary traditional area of the library is the Great Reading Room. It will contain the primary print collection and a range of seating and study areas for students and researchers. Dedicated ports have been installed around the perimeter and wireless access will be available. There is ample natural light and ceiling light fixtures.
Adjoining the Great Reading Room, is a computer room, complete with drop ceilings. It is anticipated that computer classes will be offered on a frequent basis.
The fourth floor opens up to a large balcony that can serve as an area for receptions. A small kitchen has been roughed in that will facilitate food service for the receptions.
Several bathrooms have been installed including one that will be accessible for persons with disabilities. Public bathrooms in general are few and far between. These will probably be restricted to staff and to guests. A separate outdoor bathroom has been proposed for the general public. An accessible ramp will allow access to the lower level and to the first and second floor. Only the balcony reception area will not be accessible.
A stone wall façade highlights the natural beauty of the new building.
Dwight commission art on animal hides that depict various historical events, such as the Battle of Adwa, where the Ethiopians defeated the Italians. Adwa is approximately 15 miles from Axum. These pieces of art are currently hung in the existing library in the Governor’s Palace and created by a local artists.
The children’s library is on the lower level. It will contain books, toys, educational materials, child-sized furniture, tiered seating for story hours and AV presentations. Dwight and I have been approved for a Returned Peace Corps Legacy grant, which will allow us to raise funds for the children’s library. For more information on donating to this project, click on https://eandeherald.com/rpcv-legacy-program/axum-childrens-library/
Although not yet opened, it is already being used for sign language tutoring, and sewing classes.
The current library in the Governor’s Palace is in the process of being renovated and will serve as a cultural museum. This worker is mixing cement for the façade of the former Governor’s Palace.
Although there has been great progress since my visit in 2013, there is still much to do, much of it dependent on fundraising. Significant donations have been received from the Ethiopian Diaspora, many who fled Ethiopia during the military regime. Fundraising is ongoing.
Dwight is preparing another shipping container that will contain the theater seating, computers, more building supplies, books, and other materials.
I met once again with library staffing and IT personnel at the University of Aksum (note the alternate spelling of Axum, a transliterated word). In my visit, in 2013, I had been informed that the online catalog had become corrupted with a virus. On this visit, one of the IT experts had just downloaded Koha, an open source online catalog platform. Thus, they have been without a catalog for this entire time. I was quite humbled when one of the Digital Librarians, pulled out my card from a prior visit. I provided them with forms for database access supplied on an individual basis by the American Spaces as part of the U.S. Embassy. The best I can determine, there is no access to commercial databases at the university. They have made great headway with their institutional repository, using D-Space, another open source product.
Libraries in Ethiopia are faced with many challenges including the lack of training, professional status, library education, and general infrastructure. During the last four days that I was in Ethiopia, the government-controlled internet was shut down, purportedly because of unrest in major cities in the country. Yet, everywhere that I visited, there was optimism for the future and a drive to improve their skills and better serve their constituency.
Got more information, contact Janet Lee, email@example.com
Sister Cities/Sister Libraries: the next steps
by Janet Lee, Regis University
Nearly two years ago, the City of Aurora (CO) formalized an agreement with Adama, Ethiopia to become a Sister City, as Aurora Sister Cities International made the positive decision to reinvigorate and reestablish its Sister City program. A delegation, including the mayor, came from Adama to Aurora formalize the agreement. In turn, a delegation from Aurora, including Mayor Steve Hogan, traveled to Adama. In both instances, the delegations visited their counterpart’s libraries.
More recently, I have joined a library committee within Aurora Sister Cities International to investigate ways the International Library Cultural Exchange Interest Group and the Aurora Public Library could partner with libraries in Adama.
Taking advantage of a travel opportunity to Kenya with a Regis University colleague, I decided to travel through Ethiopia on my return. I also wanted to take the opportunity to meet with my University of Denver colleague, Dr. Shimelis Assefa, who was on sabbatical since January and teaching at the Adama Science and Technology University. Jeglalo Guye, Executive Director of the Adama Sister City program, attended to local arrangements and with Shimelis greeted me at the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa (the new flower) and capital of Ethiopia.
As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Ethiopia from the 1970s, I have seen many changes on recent visits. The most striking change on this visit was the express/tollway from Addis Ababa to Adama. As we approached Adama we were met by a wind farm of 50 to 100 wind turbines, which supplies this region with much needed electrical power.
I immediately was escorted to the Adama Science and Technology University where I was greeted by Tagel Aboneh, Director of Libraries, who gave a presentation and overview of the libraries. In attendance was Vice President Lemi Guta who was very helpful with further explanations.
Universities in Ethiopia have specific areas of specialization and students who pass the national exam enter the appropriate program, even though the university may not be located within their region. ASTU, as the name indicates focuses on science and technology.
On Saturday, I visited three public libraries in the city, donated several children’s books including a copy of a book in Afaan Oromo, which I printed from the African Storybook Project (http://www.africanstorybook.org/) and holds a Creative Commons license. I also presented the librarians a thumb drive that included 12 stories in Afaan Oromo and 12 stories in Amharic to either be printed or shown on a computer.
Finally, I met with library staff on Monday to determine next steps for the library committees.
The following photos will serve to illustrate the next steps in our discovery process.
I was greeted at the airport by Dr. Shimelis Assefa, Associate Professor at the University of Denver, who is completing a sabbatical project at the Adama Science and Technology University and by Jeglalo Guye, Executive Director of Adama Sister City International. We immediately drove to Adama using a newly built super highway/toll road to Adama for a prearranged visit to the ASTU libraries and a presentation by the Library Director Tagel Aboneh. Seated in the audience was ASTU Vice President Dr. Lemi Guta, who was showing both his support for the libraries and his great appreciation for their work.
Tagel gave a noteworthy presentation on the current state on the six libraries on campus, including defining the mission of excellence and to become the leading library in science and technology as a 2025 goal, a goal which I believe they will achieve. The ASTU library system has 65,000 books, 14,795 photocopies of books, and 25,000 ebooks. The libraries can hold approximately 1500 students at a given time. It should be noted that the spring session just ended and most students are on break, otherwise the seats would have been filled with students.
Throughout Ethiopia, universities typically have a room or area that is designated female only. ASTU is different in that it has an entire library that is designated female only. With 24/7 access to all library buildings, this is done for the female students’ safety in mind. The female-only library is located near the women’s dormitory.
Tagel oversees approximately 250 total staff who maintain three shifts to cover the 24/7 access. These include employees with diplomas, first degrees (Bachelors) and second degrees (Masters).
Like 90% of the university libraries in Ethiopia, ASTU runs its online catalog using Koha open source software.
The institutional repository utilizes D-Space.
They receive great support from KOICA, (Korean-sponsorship) and plan to digitize 10,000 in high demand book titles utilizing 20 scanners of varying levels of robustness.
He has a proposal to the Vice President for Administration to implement a fully electronic library and 200 additional computers.
Challenges faced are similar to those worldwide:
Advanced technical training
Lack of RFID microchip
Resource & experience sharing
Community service project with local libraries
In visiting the primary library we were shown the circulation area, newspapers in local languages and in English, the general stacks and the computer areas. Dr. Lemi also informed me that they are investigating a plan to equip 300 high performing scholars with laptops to aid in their instruction. There are approximately 9700 total students, 30% female and 70% male. They are actively recruiting female students to the school for this upcoming year.
Youth Center Library # 1
On Saturday, I was greeted by the library staff of all three of the Youth Center libraries at Youth Center Library #1. The libraries are under the direction of the Youth Center and are situated in the same building as the recreation center, allowing children and students to avail themselves of both. I was initially confused because I saw photos of the library when the Aurora Mayor and his contingent had visited. This didn’t look like the same building as in the picture, but it was. The main difference was the removal of wooden shelving and the replacement of much sturdier metal shelving with the books neatly in place.
The library staff tracks attendance and Youth Center Library #1 usually sees approximately 300 student on average per day. Students drop their IDs in the box upon entrance. Similar to other libraries that I have visited, there is an abundance of textbooks and very few reference books of note. Also missing were any types of books for young children. Aurora Sister Cities International has shipped a container of books to Adama, but it is being held up in Djibouti, a not so uncommon experience.
The reading room is spacious, especially now when school is not in session. The library staff did state that it is frequently full as students look for a quiet place to read and study. There is ample natural light, but no signs of technology.
An Ethiopian-American author found me on the internet seeking advice on children’s publishing. He published Zonni’s Manners on Amazon as an ebook and just a couple weeks prior to my trip announced that it was available in print. I purchased a few copies and promised that I would take some photos of children reading his book. I also downloaded books from the African Storybook Project and printed one copy in Afaan Oromo and one copy in Amharic for demonstration purposes. I left this copy in Afaan Oromo as well as a flash drive with 12 titles in each language.
Upon the recommendation of Jeglalo, I gave all of the books that I had for Adama to Youth Center Library #1. It is the larger of the three libraries and the one more likely to have children. Definitely more books are needed in the future.
Youth Center Library #2
The strength of Youth Center Library #2 is its local language collection, both in Amharic and in Oromo. One could also say that about its Library Manager, Jamal Tuke, who brings eighteen years of experience to his position. High school and University students come to this library to take advantage of the local language materials.
Youth Center Library #3
Youth Center Library #3 holds a substantial health care focus with pamphlets, posters and other materials providing a wealth of information about preventative care for healthy well being. It also boasts free, but limited Internet Access for interested parties to search for further health care information.
Everyone came together on Monday from Youth Center Libraries 1, 2, 3 as well as representatives from Tourism and Culture, which has a few libraries of its own.
The group articulated their major challenges and concerns clearly and fervently. There was no expectation that the issues would be solved, but clearly appreciation that they had a voice. After describing the services that they are capable of providing, they voiced some frustration that they could not serve to the best of their ability because of many challenges: shortage of reference materials, no children’s books, inability to provide customer services at the level that they desired. The materials that they did have were dated. The size of their facilities was inadequate for the population that they served. They lacked technology, even basic computers and internet. The budget provided for salaries (they did not complain about salaries, but I am sure they are minimal) but did say that they were short staffed. The budget provided for little else. All services must be provided free of charge, so there is no provision to recoup expenses by charging for internet, for instance. Overall they have had no training and would greatly appreciate training to improve their skills. The libraries themselves are not attractive (although the new shelving in library # 1 greatly approved its appearance). There is inadequate lighting for studying. Some facilities lacked sufficient toilets.
In our discussion, we agreed that we are starting positively by having public libraries and that the next step is to make improvements. Jeglalo is charged with voicing their concerns to the mayor by giving a report of activities. He will also meet with Tagel at the University Library to arrange for the training that the library has so generously offered. When the Mayors of Aurora and Adama met, they spoke of a new library in the new industrial complex that will be developed over the next decade. I will return to Aurora Sister Cities and share their concerns and see what ASCI might be able to do. We discussed the possibility of first language publishing and Jeglalo would see if there are funds to print the remaining African Storybook Project books. We departed on a high note with hope for the future.
Rural Kenya: Baitigitu Primary School
by Janet Lee, Regis University
I was invited to join colleague, M.D. Kinoti, Associate Professor in the Masters in Nonprofit Management program at Regis University, to join him and his family for a trek to Kenya. One of his enticements was the opportunity to meet his mother. Joining us would be Roberta Bourn a member of a local Rotary Club, and her grandson Chris. We would each carry a 50 pound suitcase of medical supplies furnished by Project Cure, located in Denver. Kinoti grew up in rural Meru Kenya, where he attended primary and secondary school. Upon graduation from high school, he attended and graduated from Moi University in Nairobi where he met his future wife, Victoria. After working for several years, he took his family, now including son Timothy, to California to attend Fuller Seminary where he went on to earn two masters degrees and a PhD.
As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Ethiopia, I longed to return to this part of the world and the opportunity to explore rural schools and especially rural libraries. By planning carefully, I would also be able to hop on over to Ethiopia on my return. In preparation for the trip, Kinoti and I Skyped with an organization called Worldreader, which utilizes Kindles as a delivery method of distributing books. Worldreader began its program in Ghana and is now in Kenya. Although we hoped to visit a school that had a program, ultimately we made do with meeting a rep on the last evening.
It would not be possible to visit Kenya for the first time and not go on safari. This was my second visit to Kenya and my third opportunity to go on safari in East Africa, but there is still a thrill to see animals in their natural habitat. We saw three of the Big Five the first evening and repeat sightings of many different animals on the second day.
The universities in Nairobi have modern libraries complete with databases and other resources, but the main point of the trip was to visit schools in rural Meru, Kinoti’s ancestral home. Over the course of several days we visited a tea plantation, met with local Rotary Club members, met with local farmers who belonged to a farming co-op, and three schools: Kaubau Primary school, Uruku Girls School, and Baitigitu Primary School, Kinoti’s school when he was a boy.
In this posting, I will focus on Baitigitu Primary School. All three schools mentioned had many similar challenges: inadequate toilet facilities, insufficient number of textbooks for students, and lack of water. Kaubau had a library, but it had not been maintained and in fact the books were disintegrating from lack of care. Uruku Girls School was a boarding school, typical for rural secondary schools in Kenya, did not have a library and had a more pressing need for a dining facility and improved kitchen. One set of pit latrines had collapsed and more latrines were needed. The dormitories were built of stone with the interior walls exposed. In time, it would be aesthetically pleasing to have the walls finished, but for now the dormitories appeared solid and functional.
Through photos I will include the reader on my journey.
Baitigitu Primary School is about 15 kilometers on a very bumpy road outside the town of Nkubu. The red dust was on everything, including the tall banana trees aligning the road. One wonders how they survive with such a heavy coating. We were welcomed by the children and the Assistant Headmaster, Mwende, who immediately escorted us to the computer room. Over time, different organizations have contributed computers and expertise. Most of the computers in this room were still functional. Through the generosity of others, Kinoti presented Mwende with six computers, which had been cleaned and loaded with up to date software. A high school student from the neighborhood was utilizing one of the computers.
Water, toilet facilities, and sanitation are huge needs in Africa. Especially important is the ability to wash hands frequently. Baitigitu had many handwashing stations spread over the compound within easy reach of the children. It is Kenya’s winter and many of the children were coughing, whether it was from illness or the persistent dust might be debatable. I know I was personally affected by the dust and coughed frequently. During Kinoti’s last visit, he suggested that they capture and store rainfall from the roof and use it for irrigating the nearby garden. He was gratified that they took his advice.
Baitigitu had a small but well maintained library, with a collection of about 500-1000 books. It was organized by a 3rd grade student from Dallas, Joy Kendi Muchai, the daughter of a Kenyan doctor, who was also a graduate of the school. She had asked about their options for reading books and when she discovered they had none, took it upon herself to fundraise and collect books. It does have closed stacks, but there are sturdy tables in the reading room to read the books that are fetched for them by staff.
The shelving in the library was also sturdy with ample space for growth. The books were organized by general categories, similar to what might be found in a bookstore, and reflected the curriculum. The shelf for dictionaries was visibly empty. One of our future projects might be to put together a reading list of relevant books, and purchase them through an entity like Better World Books, which ships to Africa for free.
The students, girls included, were quick to take advantage of the new soccer ball. Since it was lunch time, many students availed themselves of a lunch of maize and beans that was served nearby. Special needs students had their own classroom, expertly taught by a teacher. She is working with them to develop skills such as jewelry making, but is having difficulty finding a market for the items. Perhaps, this could be a project by the local Rotary club. Much of her focus on students is to teach them survival skills because they are frequently taken advantage of by others.
At both primary schools, we were met by an assembly of students as we departed. Kinoti, his son Wega, and Kinoti’s wife Victoria spoke to the assembly encouraging them to study hard, stay in school, and dream for the future. It was especially relevant since this was Kinoti’s home school.
In addition to the soccer ball, we presented the school pencils and pens furnished by the Westminster (CO) Rotary, and a number of African-themed books, including two specifically about Kenya. The special ed teacher received the large, colorful book bag.
At the end, Kinoti visited his seventh grade classroom, now serving one of the lower grades. It may have been nostalgic for him, but it was an inspiration for the students. Although this desk seems full of books, most students share their basic texts on up to a 5 to 1 ratio. There is still much work to be done.
As we departed, we took a look at the adjoining greenhouse, this one actually functional and growing a variety of plants. Kinoti took the opportunity to plant one more tree, an avocado, for the future.
It was good to be back in Africa, to visit a school similar to one in which I taught so many years ago. Now on to Ethiopia!