Government has a duty to enrich school libraries

For some decades librarians have been engaged in a friendly but serious debate about the relative virtue of school libraries.

Report by Nevermore Sithole

Readers might ask, so where are we now? Are school libraries prioritised in Zimbabwe?

one of the emerging themes in the international debate on school libraries is to collectively ask the question: What is the value of school libraries?

Across the country, there is increasing attention being given to the role of school libraries in education.

As such, there has been considerable debate over the last few years, both within the political arena and among professional and policy bodies, about the position of school libraries.

Notably, there is currently a strong lobby for school libraries in the country.

The Zimbabwe Library Association is currently embarking on the “one school, one library, one librarian” advocacy campaign for school libraries. Further, October being the International School Library Month, it is vital to reflect on the value of school libraries and school librarianship.

Discussions of educational reforms in Zimbabwe are deficient, defective and distorted if they do not include a significant role for libraries. Education for all can be more effectively provided through adequate and effective library and information services network across the country.

Quite frankly, libraries in schools continue to decline and shelves are empty or full of irrelevant materials. Few schools have libraries and the quality and relevance of information resources in these libraries reveal marked variations from school to school.
Government support for school libraries is still elementary.

At the core of this issue is inadequate funding. Funding for school libraries is generally perceived to be inadequate, small in scale, piecemeal and lacking in coordination. And yet funding is vital to efficient and effective library and information services provision in schools.

In his landmark book, Quality-Quantity Dilemma in Education: The Zimbabwean Experience, Bernard Gatawa claims that a disconcerting situation exists where the majority of secondary schools have no libraries. And yet libraries are meant to complement the educational process without which much of the education desired could not be achieved.

An abundance of evidence strongly supports the connection between student achievement and the presence of school libraries with qualified school librarians. A school library is the nerve centre of academic activities in the school.

The school library supports teaching, learning and research activities in the school.

In other words, school libraries support and enrich classroom activity, teach information skills, reinforce teachers and offer reading materials for students. As such, no educational system can thrive without good library and information services. Libraries are to any educational system what blood is to our body system.

Quality in education in the country will depend to a large extent on the availability and effective use of instructional materials. Distribution of textbooks to pupils in both primary and high schools, while a noble idea, it is not cost-effective and sustainable for the government.

As such, development of school libraries is an integral part of any strategy aimed at improving the quality of school programmes and equitable access to learning and teaching resources.

It is in recognition of the pivotal role of school libraries to education that we call on the government and other key players in the country to establish libraries in schools.

Nevermore Sithole writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on ncharira@yahoo.co.uk or nchardz@gmail.com

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