Bugolobi library in Uganda was operating normally in 2020 until the pandemic hit in March. A lockdown was announced and remained in place until June. The library remained closed for the duration of the lockdown. Children were prohibited from the library due to difficulties in enforcing the health and safety measures, but teenagers and adults had access. The library was closed again in October due to the public atmosphere but had become fully operational by January 2021 with health measures fully in place. The librarian faced many challenges, particularly in the difficulty of traveling, but has persevered and made headway in reorganizing the library and adopting good hygiene practices.
The Kitengesa Community Library’s Covid Catchup scheme has taken off! Assistant librarian Muhammad has downloaded curriculum materials made available by Uganda’s National Curriculum Development Council, made printouts of them, and he and his colleague Moses are lending them to students—who observe social distancing and wear masks when they come to the library. Thank you, Muhammad and Moses!
Some news from the Ghana libraries supported by FAVL from Paul Ayuretoliya:
Everything is moving on quite well, the rehabilitation works at Gowrie Kunkua community library is still ongoing with the building part almost been completed. I recently paid them a visit to monitor progress of work, the masons and community members were on site happily carrying out the building works. The Corona pandemic is still on the rise in Ghana, wearing of nose or face mask is now mandatory in Ghana as directed the the president, despite this directives many are still seen around without nose masks, the police working together with the military are on the lookout to arrest persons who defied these directives. All libraries across Ghana are still closed to the public. We are optimistic that soon the will be some kind of ease on the restrictions on the libraries to allow some category of users to start patronage. For our community libraries that is Sumbrungu and Sherigu, CESRUD in a bid to aid reading at the library have instituted some small measures in its own little that allows only few person read at the library. Some of these users are University students who are learning via online among others. We are ensuring that the social distancing are strictly adhere whenever the libraries are to be use.
Thursday, February 6, was the last full day of the Kitengesa Community Library’s 2020 Youth Health Camp. The participants were 20 students (10 girls and 10 boys) who were just beginning their second year at secondary school. They had spent eight days learning about health issues, especially about nutrition, HIV-AIDS, and the most common cancers in Uganda. This being the last day, they were reviewing some of the material, and when I arrived the head librarian and the visiting health professional were fielding questions about dangerous practices such as smoking. Why do policemen smoke, a student asked, if they know it is not good for them? This led to a discussion of the attractions of smoking and the dangers of addiction.
Then each student was asked to name a topic they were going to research and make a presentation on the next day. The most popular topic was “balanced diet”, with several saying they would concentrate on particular vegetables (carrot, cabbage, or dodo, which is a local kind of spinach. Others chose to work on HIV-AIDS, and one said he would research Uganda’s three most common cancers. A few made trial presentations, and then they all spent the hour before lunch working on their projects.
After lunch the group followed the usual routine in discussing the meal they had just eaten and identifying the nutritional properties of each item. Then they went back to their research, a few on computers (even though the library has only two working ones), a few on smart phones (again, there were only two), and several reading books. Most worked in groups, and all were busy making notes. The librarians told me that the students’ ability to get information from written text has noticeably improved, and they commented on how important it was to have ten days for the camp rather than six, as they had last year.
So now we are looking for funds to support future camps—we would like to have one for older students about environmental concerns—and also to buy computers for the students to do their research. What the librarians have done this year is excellent, but it could be so much better with more equipment!
The Kitengesa Community Library has held a health camp for teenagers almost every year now since 2014. The camp focuses on nutrition and on prevention and treatment of HIV-AIDS; and in the present one we are also introducing a session on cancer. The students, who are just beginning Senior Two, are 13-14 years old, an age when they really need to know about these matters. Many of them will continue to work with the librarians after the camp as members of the Youth Leadership Group, working to spread the word about what they’ve learned and to cultivate nutritious food crops themselves.
The 2020 Youth Health Camp is taking place in the library right now, and Ssebuuma Muhammad one of the librarians, has just sent this set of pictures. FAVL director Kate Parry expectd to visit the library this coming Thursday and Friday to take part in the last day of activities and in the closing ceremony.
Kate Parry visited a couple of UgCLA libraries on a recent trip to the west of Uganda. One, at Bundibugyo, behind the Ruwenzori Mountains, is new and, so far, well funded. They’ve set it up very nicely, with low shelves for the children’s books and little chairs for children to sit in. They run a children’s program every Saturday afternoon and debates and quizzes rather less frequently for secondary school students. Most of their books come from Books For Africa, glossy new American publications with far too many copies of some titles (which I advised the librarian, Morris, to pass on to other libraries), but they do have some Ugandan textbooks as well. Local language books are complicated for them since no fewer than three languages are used regularly in the community, none of which has any literature to speak of.
The second library visited, at Kasese, is a much older, and less well funded, establishment. But the man in charge, Patrick Isingoma, works tirelessly to keep the place going. His present project is a fish pond, at which he was working when I arrived, leaving his daughter in charge of the library. They don’t have any new books, as far as I could see, and their technological equipment has mostly broken down—which is sad, because they used to show videos regularly for children. It’s a fine example of the problem of sustainability, though the library is still in good enough shape to manage a grant if we could get one for it.
One outcome of UgCLA’s conference and annual general meeting in July was that those present agree to a higher annual subscription for UgCLA and a higher conference contribution, without which UgCLA simply can’t do the conference. The trouble is that those who so voted were the ones who could pay, since the others, like Patrick, hadn’t come because they couldn’t afford to. Problem of sustainability again. One thing the conference did achieve, though, was to bring UgCLA’s libraries to the attention of the Minister of State for Primary Education and to make the point that it would be an efficient use of funds to invest in librarians’ salaries.
On August 29-30, 2019, the Kitengesa Community Library hosted its third health camp for adult women. The funds for this camp and for the last one in 2018 were donated by the Heidi Paoli Fund, so, because of the Fund’s interest in the care of cancer patients, the two camps focused on cancer—appropriately since cancer, especially of the cervix and the breast, now kills more people in Uganda than even malaria. The Marie Stopes Clinic, located nearby in Masaka town, provided professional help: the doctor who directs the clinic spoke to the participants about cancer and answered questions, and two nurses offered screening to anyone who wanted it for HOV, the viral infection that leads to cervical cancer; the library’s computer room was turned into a temporary clinic for the purpose. Thirty-one people attended the camp, including twenty who had never been to the library before, and twenty-six were screened. Aside from the doctor’s talk and the screenings, the library set up board games for the women to play that were designed to reinforce the information, and they also, led by one of the librarians, played a cancer-focused version of Jeopardy. Despite the fact that the rainy season had just begun and the women were anxious to work in their gardens, they appreciated the camp and were unanimous in asking us to organize more in future about other health issues.
FAVL East Africa director Kate Parry was visiting some libraries around the country. She writes about Bundibugyo community library, behind the Ruwenzori Mountains in western Uganda: “They’ve set it up very nicely, with low shelves for the children’s books and nice little chairs for children to sit in. They run a children’s program every Saturday afternoon and debates and quizzes rather less frequently for secondary school students.” The library Facebook page with more photos is here.