BY LIZ CROSS
“I love science because it talks about everyday things.” This is what Joyce tells me as she reads another science book from the mobile library. Every time the library comes she picks out a different book on this subject. Today she reads to me about photosynthesis. There are words there which I don’t know and I am impressed how she can explain it all to me in English.
Joyce attends one of 20 Creative Learning Centres (CLCs) which Viva and our partner network CRANE have set up to encourage girls who have dropped out of school to return to mainstream education. It is great to know that in a few weeks’ time 14 of these 20 girls will go back to school.
The CLC has many resources compared to the other Ugandan schools I have visited; however the classroom still has a small and very limited selection of books.
I am visiting today with CRANE’s mobile library, a van that tours around our CLCs, as well as, on average, four different mainstream schools every month. The library is packed with books and over the last year more than 3,300 children have used it.
The library comes with an assistant, Stella, who is trained to help the girls make the most of their library experience. Her job involves monitoring the girls are reading at the correct level and asking comprehension question to check their understanding.
As Stella prepares the van, I spend some time getting to know the girls and I ask them about their hobbies. Nearly all of them mention how much they love reading. And I can quickly see that this is the case – for the next hour the girls sit in the sunshine, fully absorbed in their books.
Gloria and Tezira, the two CLC teachers, tell me how important the mobile library is for the girls’ learning. When these girls first arrived at the CLC only two of them knew how to read or write. The library has not only helped them learn to read but it has also improved their spelling and built their confidence in speaking English – all vital in helping them get better jobs in the future.
I learn how the last time the library was here one of the girls found a book with her name in the title. She was so excited that she didn’t stop reading until she had finished the whole story.
The library, however, is about more than improving literacy skills or instilling the girls with a love of reading. It also encourages self-learning – through the library, the girls can find out new things that they would never discover elsewhere. It has also been a vital part of developing the girls’ self-confidence.
I hear about one of the girls who knew how to read but didn’t believe in herself. It was through the library that the teachers saw her self-esteem improve. By the end of her six months at the CLC she was happily reading books out loud to the whole class and also interpreting what they mean.
And this is really what the CLCs and the library is about: ensuring that girls develop skills, self-esteem and resilience for their futures.
You can see our mobile library in action and hear more from the children using it by watching the short video below.