A week ago, a friend prompted discussions on social media about the status of public libraries in Uganda. The one in Mbale District was converted into a bank and its materials relocated to a congested place without a sign post. It was immediately usurped by political social media activists to catalogue the failures of the incumbent government.
Regardless of whichever party is at the helm of our national leadership, nothing can be accomplished without a clear policy on this matter.
Public libraries were established in the pre and post-independence era, because the colonialists still wielded considerable influence on our political, economic, religious and social lifestyles. Many church missions still have stockpiles of books or have lost them to insects, rodents and weathering.
Whereas Westerners have an established reading culture, it is said about blacks that the best way of concealing something is writing it in a book! Is it a matter of race or skin colour that they read books during long journeys? Nope! It is about intellectual development and those ruling the world do so through invention and innovation.
Apparently, the literacy levels are high and sizeable numbers of Ugandans can read and write- either literate or semi-literate. Indeed the UPEUSE policy has enabled children in the current generation to access basic education.
But is that all we need? It is evident that even those who were educated earlier on never go back to libraries to read except when seeking additional qualifications for aertised jobs!
It seems that after reading East, West, South African and European history story books and other literature, there remains nothing new to study.
Although the availability of web contents have made research and study materials accessible with a single click, such media are predominantly used for passing exams, chatting, dispensing rumours or political activism.
Ultimately, West Africa has produced more prominent story writers, media presenters and comedians etc than East Africa, Uganda being the region’s education hub. They have more faith-based writers there as well than in our region.
Public libraries should indeed be restored with a wider coverage that encompasses towns and townships but contents to study should provide facilities in variety of fields for self-education so that learners can on their own develop other skills. Learning does not end only when one is at school, and should be utilised for lifetime personal development rather than getting jobs and burying the brain.
St. Paul’s College, Mbale.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor