Books For Peace

  • Education
  • Youth
  • South Africa
This project is led by James Coughlin, a Volunteer from Washington

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In my community—a small, rural village—there is no library. There is no easy access to reading books for learners. With no reading books, literacy suffers, and school performance suffers in all areas. This grant will go towards assisting the construction of a library space in the Grade 7 classroom and filling it with books and learning aids. We will also construct a shelf space in Grade 6 for any extra books. An NGO has donated 22,000 books to distribute across Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) communities in South Africa. Most of this grant will go towards paying for the shipment and clearance of the books. My primary school will collect approximately 800 books for its library, and the rest will be donated to 23 other sites connected with 23 other PCVs. The introduction of a library space at my primary school will impact the learners from grades one to seven. 179 learners (91 males, 88 females) from 6 to 15 years old will receive access to over 740 books in a safe, secure, and quiet space conducive to learning. Learners will be trained on the proper use of the books in a series of initial library lessons before they have free access to the books. With a dedicated library space, the school will also have the means to provide extra remedial classes for struggling learners and form reading clubs. At least one member of the school staff will be trained in the library’s management. This will include proper management of the library catalog, accession register, and check-out system. All teachers (2 male and 8 female) will build the practical capacity to make use of the library space and its books in their lessons. Teacher will also gain access to computer and projector technologies for use in planning and teaching. Once the library is set-up and being managed efficiently, access will be extended to young-adult and adult members of the community on the weekends. The library can then be a space to host adult literacy classes, computer skills classes, and job-readiness trainings.

The primary school library project was first proposed by the school principal. A need was seen by him and the rest of the staff for increased access to reading materials. In Term 2 of the 2019 school year, school teachers and learner volunteers worked to organize small reading corners in the grade 5 and grade 6 classrooms. These have been put to great use by learners for leisure reading. A love of reading has thereby begun to develop within the school community, and teachers have agreed that the expansion of reading spaces into a spacious, beautiful library space would allow this culture of reading to truly flourish and reach its full potential. Currently the quality of books is low and the quantity and space limited. The local community has come together and contributed significant person-hours to the planning of the project. The SGB has been closely involved in important decisions regarding the purpose and design of the library space. Three meetings have been held thus far to discuss the need for the library, the sharing of responsibility, and advisement on how to best involve the rest of the community and ensure a successful outcome. Small businesses in the community have committed to donating materials for the project, as well as giving discounts on certain materials and resources. Our school security guard as volunteered the use of his truck for the transport of materials for constructing the shelves.

The school principal is leading the project, and the SGB is involved closely in all planning. Volunteers from within the community will be essential to the construction and preparation of the library space, assisting with block-making, painting, and more. The close involvement of the community will ensure they are invested in the long term sustainability of the project. Once established, the library will be very low-maintenance. Our volunteer librarian will be a teacher already working in the school, who will not need a salary. Simultaneously with constructing the library, our school is developing a library plan for teachers to learn how to use the library, so that even if the librarian leaves others can continue to manage the library effectively. Learner volunteers and youth volunteers in the community will also be trained on managing and maintaining the library. Even if our school never obtains more books, this project supplies enough to comfortably fill our needs. Properly cared for books will last for many years, impacting a tremendous number of learners. My counterpart for the library management stage of the project, will be trained in library management and will sustain the libraries function after I leave. She will continue to train learners and older community volunteers to manage the library on weekends. In the event that she also leaves the school, she will have trained a substantial number of teachers and or community volunteers to manage the library. A management guidebook will also be designed for head librarian to reference and make use of. The Principal and my counterpart, will ensure that there is always at least one staff member trained in library management and in charge of the library. He wants the school library to be part of his legacy at the school, and is fully committed to making it last long after I have left.

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