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Students flock community library as strike bites

By NANJINIA WAMUSWA and REBECCA GICHANA

Cyprine Aoko is one of the close to ten million pupils and students out of class due to teachers’ strike which has paralysed learning activities in public schools. The Class Seven pupil at Ayany Primary, has, however, found solace at Amani Kibera Community Library. She attends the library everyday to study.

“Teachers are on strike but that does not mean we stop learning. I come here everyday to keep my studies on course. The library is very helpful,” says the 12-year-old.

Like Aoko, many pupils in public schools are being affected by teachers’ strike, which is in its third week now. However, for students living within Kibera and its environs, the Amani Kibera Community Library has come in handy.

When Education visited the library at Olympic within sprawling Kibera slums, the facility was packed to capacity with primary and secondary students busy on studies.

Students had come from neighbouring primaries such as Olympic, Soweto, Ayany, Kibera, Moi Avenue and Milimani primary schools and secondary schools like Nairobi Day, Glory, Lang’atta and Mashimoni.

Ben Ooko one of the library founder members said since the strike begun they have been receiving more than 400 pupils from both primary and secondary schools within the neighbourhood.

Limited space

“We open the library from 8am to 8pm, but since the start of the teachers’ strike many students arrive here as early as 7am forcing us to open a bit earlier so as not to keep them waiting outside,” says Mr Ooko.

Normally the facility, which proffers course books, novels, revision books, past papers and has handful computers for research purposes, records less than 100 students on week days and close to 150 during weekends and holidays.

The swelling numbers have challenged the founders to go back to the drawing board, says Ooko, adding, “We don’t have enough books, seats and the space is equally limited yet the number keeps swelling by day. Some students are forced to pick reading materials and study from outside.”

The library is free of charge to all users who include pupils in nursery, primary, secondary, colleges and other institutions. It was started in 2007 as project to foster peace and unite residents.

“We settled on a library because everyone would use it to gain knowledge. It has since been of handy because there isn’t another in entire Kibera community,” says Samson Odhiambo, a co-founder member.

The library started with 700 books that were purchased from a grant by Slovak Embassy in Nairobi, plus others donated by parents who supported the idea. At that time the room was very small and could only support 20 people at once.

The library currently has 2,800 books. The books are borrowed for a week. However, the borrowers must registered with Sh300. Books on high demand are not borrowed but used and left at the premise.

One of biggest challenge facing the library is rampant theft of useful books. The founders now say they are looking forward to instal machine that would detect any book that is sneaked out.

Facility wins awards

Plans are also at advanced stage to start computer classes to teach the community, students included on the basic computer skills for a small fee.

The library has won several awards. In 2010 it won Best Community Organization on Peace, for dealing with young people sponsored by Media Focus on Africa.

In 2011 it won Best Library in the Community Libraries category sponsored by Maktaba Awards, and early this year in won Best Peace Activity in Kebera, sponsored by Jasuits Hakimani.

The founders appeal to well wisher and corporates to sponsor the purchase of books and other materials for use.


 

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