School children in parts of the Bolgatanga Municipal are now able to visit community libraries whenever they wish to read or do their home work, thanks to the Community Library Project.
The intervention, no doubt is making significant contribution towards improving academic performance – engaging the pupils in a more profitable way than before when it was only play and idleness after school or at the weekends.
Experts say the library is the backbone of all education institutions. It provides wide range of information resources that empowers them to produce resourceful individuals to influence the progress of society.
Its role in providing accurate and relevant information to improve the knowledge and broaden the outlook of students and pupils cannot be underestimated.
The development of the culture of reading is vital to strong academic performance.
Neil Gaiman, an English author defines library “as a place that is a repository of information and gives every citizen equal access to it.
That includes health information and mental health information. It’s a community space. It’s a place of safety, a haven from the world”.
For the country to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal Four by 2030 something that entails inclusive and equitable quality education there is the need to develop libraries in the communities – to make it easier for pupils and students to access relevant and current learning materials.
Everybody should have access to information which is relevant, current and timely to succeed in their respective fields. Students and pupils are no exception when they want to succeed in their academic work, to become useful to themselves and the society.
With the rapid improvement in technology, information can now be obtained from various sources especially with the aid of the internet where all kinds of information are put out for public consumption.
But the question one may ask is: are all the different types of information out there on the internet accurate and credible enough to serve the society to advance well? The answer is a big no. Not all information put out there is accurate and reliable.
Community Library and its importance
A Community library is a centre or learning space created within a community and stocked with books and other learning materials and this is mostly owned and managed by the community or community-based organizations.
Access to the library is mostly at a minimal cost or no cost at all and this offers the less privileged children the opportunity to have access to relevant information to improve their classroom performance.
It is sad to note that despite the significant role of libraries particularly the community ones, thy are being masked by fast-paced developments in information technology.
It should be noted that libraries, especially a community library, is not just about the wide range of books it has on its shelves but a place where individuals gather to explore, interact and share ideas that strengthen neighbourhoods and enhances sustainable community development.
As said by Willian Pollard, an English Quaker writer, “Information is a source of learning. But unless it is organized, processed, and available to the right people in a format for decision making, it is a burden, not a benefit”.
Notwithstanding the impact the library has on the quality of education, community and national development, an investigation conducted by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) revealed that there were few libraries (both public and private) in the country, particularly in the Upper East Region. Even with the few public libraries these cannot boast of quality books and enabling environment to promote patronage.
The Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (CESRUD) Library Initiative
The pressure on government to meet the numerous development needs of the people makes it difficult for it to provide the libraries, stocked with the desired books at every corner of the country especially in the rural areas.
This therefore demands actions from individuals, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and philanthropists – to contribute their bit to developing the educational sector by making books available to children.
One of the NGOs in the Upper East Region that has been working hard over the years to complement government’s efforts of delivering quality education is the Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (CESRUD). CESRUD has over the years been working to promote quality education at the basic level at Sumbrungu in the Bolgatanga Municipality through several educational projects including the establishment of community libraries.
The organization, in collaboration with Friends of African Village Libraries (FAVL), an American Charity Organization has established three community libraries at Sumbrungu and Sherigu in the Bolgatanga Municipality and Gowrie-Kunkua in the Bongo District, to encourage reading. They have been supplying books and other learning materials to all the 20 basic schools in the Bolgatanga West ‘B’ Circuit – to make books available to children.
Aside the community libraries and the promotion of quality basic education in the area, CESRUD as a community based non-profit organization, has provided economic empowerment to about 80 rural women groups to undertake income generating activities such as petty trading, basket weaving and pito brewing to improve livelihoods.
According to Mr Rex Asanga, the Executive Director of Centre, they had also partnered Biblionef Ghana and Lions Club International to refurbish and turn the Sumbrungu Community library into a modern one stocked with books, mattress for pupils’ rest, games, computers and established mini-libraries in all the basic schools in the area.
He explained to GNA that reading was a window to the world and one could only acquire that knowledge when he or she has the required materials to learn and that libraries were mechanisms that would make children cultivate the habit of reading.
He added that free vacation classes, reading competitions and games, was often organized at the libraries for pupils, to encourage them to develop the culture of reading.
Mr Asanga said CESRUD had established a Teachers’ Resources Centre, where refresher courses are organized yearly for teachers to equip them with modern techniques of teaching and class management to raise the standard of education. At every training workshop about 230 teachers are usually trained.
The Executive Director said although the intervention had yielded some positive results much still needed to be done to improve the quality of education in the area.
“The performance of the schools at the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) each year before was very poor such that no school in the area has better position than 90th in the region. But with the intervention, the schools are now improving with a school recording position within the 20s best performing schools.”
Conclusion and Recommendations
It is an undeniable fact that library and access to books continue to play critical roles in the promotion of quality of education. A visit to some of the CESRUD libraries showed that the pupils have been visiting the libraries even at night. Some children visit the library not to only read story books and interact with each other, but to also get necessary assistance to do their assignments.
The libraries are also patronized by some Senior High School students, who are at home for holidays and looking for conducive place to learn. They are going to be useful to students of the double track system.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to which Ghana is a signatory, particularly goal four, that targets inclusive, equitable and quality education by 2030 can only be realized when every Ghanaian child has access to education and quality learning materials.
Considering the importance of achieving this goal, it is imperative for government through the Municipal and District Assemblies to rehabilitate and to restock all libraries, especially those in the deprived communities, to make books available to children to learn to enrich their knowledge.
As we applaud CESRUD for this novelty, it is important for other NGOs, the corporate world, philanthropists and individuals to complement government’s efforts towards attaining the SDGs – the goal four, in particular.
By: Anthony Adongo Apubeo