There is a common joke in Kenya that if you want to keep your money safely, keep it not in a bank but a book! Nobody will touch the book to get your money! This joke illustrates how far the reading culture is from many Kenyans. Those who study do it merely to pass examinations and forget about the hell of reading. It is therefore not surprising to hear students who passed their final national examinations a few months ago swear that they would fail the same examinations if they repeated them today. Why should they pass again when most of them burnt the mid night candle to save notes in their heads to pass their examinations and once this was accomplished, they deleted everything from their minds and donated their notes and text books to friends?
One institution is out to put an end to this culture of being allergic to reading. The St. John Community Library is in the fore front in encouraging communities in Korogocho not just to read for examinations but read for life too. The library located at Korogocho Slums in Nairobi stocks about nine thousand text books relevant for curriculum coverage and general reading fort life. Every day, hundreds of readers from Korogocho, Dandora, Baba Dogo and Kariobangi estates throng the library to read. Over eighty per cent of the readers are in primary and secondary school students though the numbers of students from higher institutions of learning are on the rise. The readers have not been disappointed with the services offered since four librarians are always available to serve them, listen to them and answer to their requests of new text books they need purchased.
While the library has grown rapidly in the last ten years, it is still underused according to the librarians. While the turn up of students using the library is overwhelming, few adults out of school turn up to read. This is because the community has not yet understood the larger role the library plays in transforming their lives. They have not come to terms with the richness of acquiring widespread knowledge which shapes their global perspectives in looking at things hence empowering them to participate competently in national building. To most of the adults, the library is a God sent messiah which has saved them from buying text books for their children but it has nothing to do with it.
Aware of this misunderstanding, The St John Community Library has organized a library day to sensitize the community about the services available for different classes in the community and how they can acquire knowledge through these services. The day whose theme is ‘Usomi Ni Ujuzi Na Uwezo’, will be marked on Saturday 26th July 2008 at 9.00am at St. John Catholic Church play ground. Several activities have been lined up for The Library Day which has been sponsored by Concern World Wide. The main activity will be essay writing and poetry competition on the topic ‘Importance of The Library to the Community’. Winners in the categories of primary school pupils, high school students, elders, women, teachers and youth out of school will be awarded. Other activities will include video shows, exhibitions, dances drama and speeches from invited guests. The Library Day has targeted readers from different backgrounds in the community to create awareness among them to read for life even among those who have not been to school.
By Oluoch Japheth
The Writer is an employee of The St. John Catholic Church.