Our libraries are more than places where you find an excellent collection of books. They are also places where children can come to find a way to express themselves in our different programs. Some children come to the library because it is a safe environment. Such is the case of a young girl who I will call Carol. Carol spends lots of time in NLL, looking at books and participating in different programs. After a recent mentoring session, Carol opened up to library staff about having been sexually abused in the past. We were there to hear her story, when her home environment did not provide the love and care she deserved. Yesterday, Carol approached one of our staff members with a deep wound on her forehead. I was in NLL at the time and was told that the wound was a result of physical abuse from her mother. Carol had not been given medical attention for several days and was clearly traumatized. “My mum did this to me,” she said, “she wanted to kill me.” I spoke to her and realized that Carol had an abusive and negligent mother. Since yesterday, Lubuto staff have initiated action to protect the girl. We have worked with her school and the Child Protection Unit of the Zambia Police Service to make the mother accountable, while ensuring that Carol receives very urgent medical care. And since NLL is embedded in the community, we will continue monitoring Carol’s situation.
by Thomas Mukonde.
One of the activities that we do at Lubuto is connect with children living and working on the streets. This week, I joined our outreach team from FOHLL at Lusaka’s Soweto Market and read The Three Little Pigs with children we met at the market. Brenda, one of our Program Facilitators, helped me translate the story into Nyanja. While I speak Nyanja, my native language is Bemba. It was a beautiful experience, reading amid very difficult circumstances. As we read, more and more children joined us, many sniffing “glue,” a common drug on the streets.
Our environment was a far cry from the comfort of a classroom in an elite American elementary school or even a Zambian classroom. A stream of dirty water flowed right by us and various types of trade happened in the open air market. There were stalls with used clothes, restaurants and electronics for sale. Some of the children were themselves parents, living on the streets with their families. There is a whole world on the streets, with their own economy – modes of earning a living – and communities.
But it was almost magical how we were all united in story. It seems we were, for that half hour, shut out from the rest of the world. Many children we meet on the streets are eventually drawn to Lubuto Library Programs. The Fountain of Hope, a local non-profit organization that hosts a Lubuto Library, helps reintegrate the children into society while Lubuto provides a rare opportunity for these children to explore talents they thought they never had, talk to a caring adult or simply come to a quiet place to read a book.
by Thomas Mukonde
About the Author:
Thomas Mukonde recently joined the Lubuto Library Project Zambia Office. Thomas is a native of the Copperbelt town of Kitwe. He grew up there and attended both public and private schools before proceeding to boarding school in the southern part of Zambia. After this, he studied under scholarships in the U.K. and the United States. In the U.S., he graduated with a B.A. in History from Georgetown University. After teaching for a year at a private, elite, school in Washington, D.C., Thomas decided to return home and give back to his community. During the months between returning to Zambia and beginning work with Lubuto, Thomas worked at a primary school that his family runs in Kitwe. Thomas has a deep interest in education and social equity. He is excited to be back in Zambia and working with the Lubuto Library Project in bringing quality library services to its vulnerable children.
Our two Lubuto Libraries in Lusaka continue to draw large numbers of children. The libraries complement the formal education system by providing high quality collections and programming to all children, especially vulnerable children. Class sizes in Zambian primary schools are often large, usually with over fifty children per class. This means that many Zambian children have little contact with their teacher. Although primary education in Zambia is now free, uniform costs and other fees make attending school prohibitive for many. Lubuto provides a place where children can find a comfortable, welcoming, environment in which to explore knowledge on their own and to participate in our programming. They also find friendly library staff, who are ready to help them find a book, read to them or simply listen to their concerns.
One of the most popular programs in the libraries is LubutoMentoring. Lubuto developed a series of mentoring topics with a local expert, ensuring that content was culturally and age appropriate. The expert also trained staff in how to effectively conduct a mentoring session. Invariably, children enjoy these mentoring sessions and parents have reported positive behavioural change. Mentoring sessions are built around stories, both traditional and those found in our collections. This is very much like the traditional African way of deliberation. Children respond well to the open discussion format of the sessions and the architecture of the Reading Room, with a talking circle at the center, facilitates the process. Observing mentoring sessions, one is amazed at the freedom children express in sharing their opinions or asking questions. It is probably the only place in their lives where they are seen and heard.
Lubuto provides a place for children to be themselves, something greatly lacking in Zambian society. Because of the breakdown in family structures that has occurred in the wake of the HIV-AIDS epidemic, many children have lost one or both parents. The 2010 Census revealed that 15.8% of Zambian children have lost one or both parents. Many families are strained, leaving children with little parental care or on the streets. But Lubuto changes this. Its staff welcomes all children, particularly those at the fringes of society, giving them hope, a chance to expand their minds and connecting them to their own culture. Lubuto is a model of how a library can serve to enrich the lives of vulnerable children and provide a space for them to realize their right to be children.
Construction of the third library is in the early stages. Excavations are being completed; on Monday we hope to start building the foundations.
The Mumuni Library, the third Lubuto Library in Zambia and the first in a rural area, will also be the largest. We know that the Nabukuyu community (comprising 22 Tonga villages led by 22 headmen and the Matantala Rural Integrated Development Enterprise) which will own the library, has high expectations and many plans for the use of the library by children, teenagers and adults. The community people and Matantala (our hosting organization) believe that the Mumuni Library will become the main centre for the whole community to meet and interact, and will also attract services and other economic activity to the adjacent area.
In our trips to the site and the surrounding area, we noticed that a Tonga homestead usually develops in a linear way: a main building at one end, across from it a group of other important buildings, and some smaller structure (often a kitchen or insaka) in the middle. A large tree is often included in the homestead’s ground. As we have two very nice large indigenous trees on our site and given the anticipated high demand for the library services, we decided to add a fourth building. This building will be designed and equipped to serve the teenage population among the users of the Mumuni Library.
by Eleni Coromvli
In the last few weeks we’ve had some very important meetings at the Lubuto Library Project in Zambia.
First I was invited to the work planning meeting, where the management team scheduled all the work that Lubuto will be doing on all of its projects and programs over the next year. There will be a lot happening, and there is lots to achieve!
Second, we had a Program Planning meeting last week, where every member of the Lubuto team came together to discuss ideas, iron out issues, and share the successes of each of our program areas. It was quite amazing to see how Lubuto has grown over the last year, with more and more people becoming involved and sharing their expertise.
Then, the following day, we had a meeting with some new volunteers at the Lubuto office. I have been working recently on recruiting new volunteers to help in all areas of our work, and we had a very good meeting welcoming 3 new ladies to the team – one in each of the libraries and one who will be volunteering in the office. It was really great to get their input and ideas, see their enthusiasm, and know that they will be working to support our vulnerable young people.
As reported previously in our newsletter, Lubuto has received a grant from the All Children Reading partnership to develop our LubutoLiteracy program. This could not come at a better time for Zambian children, since the government has recently announced that all teaching in schools up to Grade 4 should be done in local languages. So, being able to access the LubutoLiteracy lessons and learn to read in any one of the seven major languages in Zambia can only help children to learn more effectively – and, of course, research has proven that learning to read in one’s mother tongue is the best way to improve literacy levels in general.
May 10th saw our launch event at Ngwerere Lubuto Library, and what a day it was! We could not have anticipated the hoards of children who would be in attendance to celebrate the success of their beloved library through drums, dancing, drama, music, speeches and of course food! A number of VIP guests, including a representative from the Ministry of Education, Skills, Vocational Training and Early Education attended, and were impressed not only by our holistic approach to library provision in general but by the demonstrations of the LubutoLiteracy programs specifically. Our team of young facilitators and program developers, who have undergone training in OLPC laptop maintenance and programming, were on hand to showcase their knowledge and explain the program to visitors.
The highlight of the day had to be the award presentations to those children who had managed to complete all 100 literacy lessons in one of the languages during the pre-launch testing phase (and many are now starting to learn to read in another language). The joy and pride on the children’s faces as they collected their new school bags – complete with treasured Lubuto badge – from our dignitaries (and on those of their parents, siblings and friends who joined them) was a heart warming sight which I am sure will not be forgotten by any of our guests for a long time.
The good news is that, as we develop the program, it will become more widely accessible, more user friendly, and have even more educational value – so children all across Zambia (and beyond!) will be able to use it to improve their literacy skills and give themselves the best possible chance in life. As the children sang today – “It’s our time to bring change” – and the LubutoLiteracy program is certainly changing children’s lives.
Last week saw our fourth LubutoDrama performance. As is now usual, the groups from both libraries came together to perform and celebrate their achievements. I didn’t think that things could get any better than our third performance, a month or so ago, but I was wrong! The standard of the acting increases every time; the kids get more and more enthusiastic and supportive of each other; the audience gets bigger; girls take more and more of a lead role – the bar has well and truly been raised.
The two libraries are in friendly competition with each other to see who can provide the best performance but this does not mean that they do not support each other, singing along with songs, joining in with dancing, falling about with laughter at the jokes and cheering at the end of each scene.
Kenny is the best warm up man I have ever seen, whipping the audience up into a frenzy before each performance. I am sure that the cries of “3…2…1…ACTION!” can be heard across the compound and young children come running to see what is going on in the library!
This performance was a double privilege for me because my parents are visiting from the UK and they were able to be a part of the audience. It was only their second day in Zambia – what an introduction to Lubuto’s work!