LITERACY AND LIBRARY IN MALAWI, AFRICA
Ripple Africa built Mwaya Community Library in 2005 and since then both Adult Literacy and Children’s Corner sessions take place there. With thousands of books, this library is one of very few in Malawi.
Adult Literacy in Malawi, Africa
Achievements and Future Plans
Mwaya Community Library was built in 2005 and it is equipped with 4,500 books. There are more than 1,600 library members and many adults in the community have been helped to learn English and to read and write. In addition, students at Open School at Kapanda are being helped with their coursework through adult education classes. We will continue to support the library, the classes and purchasing additional books.
How We Work
Ripple Africa pays the ongoing operating costs of the library for the benefit of the local community. We support four adult education classes each week where students are taught to read and write and are encouraged to read newspapers and books. These students are also taught letter-writing skills and how to fill in forms. Each Saturday the library team conducts the Children’s Corner in an effort to promote literacy amongst the next generation of readers.
$11 could buy a school textbook used for self-study at the library
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Why It Is So Important
Mwaya Community Library
Ripple Africa constructed and maintains the Mwaya Community Library – a popular facility which was opened in 2005 and contains a wide variety of books for adults and children. In Malawi, very few people have access to any books at all, yet the link between books and literacy is indisputable. In addition to the obvious educational benefits, access to books is critical to developing a greater understanding of the world.
Books provide entertainment, knowledge, reference, advice, and exposure to outside cultures, practices, and views. A library not only helps to encourage the habit of reading, but inspires a thirst for knowledge which generates understanding and openness to new ideas.
We love seeing the amazement on the faces of people when they first visit the library, and the response of young children captivated by the musical books and colorful collections of children’s fiction. However, it is witnessing library members reading Shakespeare, or viewing picture books of what animals look like in different countries for the very first time, that really touches our hearts. The Community Library is important not only because it supports education – one of Ripple Africa’s three pillars of focus – but for the varied and complex ways it is enjoyed by so many people in the community. As most of the residents in our area live on under a $1 a day, this free resource is vital.
Adult Literacy and Children’s Corner
Ripple Africa supports adult literacy in Malawi through the running of four adult literacy classes at Mwaya Community Library. These sessions are open to those living in Mwaya, Mazembe, Katenthere and other surrounding villages. The Children’s Corner session on a Saturday is also open to children in these areas.
- pays the salaries of a teacher and an assistant teacher at each adult literacy class
- pays the salary of a reading assistant for Children’s Corner
- facilitates a weekly lesson planning session for aforementioned instructors
- provides ongoing support for Mwaya Community Library including the purchase of new books.
All students who attend library-sponsored classes are members of the library and are therefore allowed to borrow books to support their learning.
Illiteracy is a problem throughout Africa, and Malawi is no exception. Lack of access to quality education, extreme student to teacher ratios, high primary school drop-out rates, and limited secondary school enrollment, all contribute to low literacy rates with many people struggling with even the most basic day to day tasks.
According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (March 2016), 65.75% of the adult population (aged 15 years and above) in Malawi can read and write. For adult men, the literacy rate is 73% and for women it is 59%.
Literacy is generally worse amongst older adults than younger people. The youth literacy rate (literacy amongst people age 15-24) in Malawi is 75%. While primary education has been free in Malawi since 1994, many adults who were school age before this time may have only attended intermittently, depending on their family’s ability to pay the required school fees, or not at all.
Literacy is critically important because one’s ability to read and write makes a huge difference in carrying out many simple day to day activities. This belief is reflected in some of the reasons community members have given for joining the classes our classes, including:
- Ability to read the newspaper instead of just looking at the pictures
- Helping their children with homework
- Understanding how to read and complete a form
- Writing letters
- Utilizing the many resources the library has to offer
- Reading a story to their children.
What We Have Achieved
- The library holds over 4,500 books, magazines, and newspapers, all of which are cataloged.
- Students at Mwaya Primary School visit the library daily for lessons and reading activities.
- The library is a resource to the wider community, who can become library members for free.
- There are currently over 1,600 library members who are able to borrow books to read at home.
- A custom-built reading room where the Mwaya adult literacy class meets.
- Hiring of a librarian and two assistants who keep the facility in immaculate condition.
- To date, only one book has gone missing (and has been replaced by an overseas donor) and, unlike many libraries, the assistant has a bicycle to chase up overdue books! If any books do go missing, the borrower is responsible for paying for a replacement.
- Adult students who were previously illiterate are now able to read and write.
- Non English speaking members have learned the basics of the English language.
- Select students have been offered places at Open School at Kapanda to finish their secondary education.
- Children that are attending Children’s Corner are really enjoying being able to access books and read.
How We Work
Ripple Africa pays the operating costs of the library for the benefit of the local community. This includes the salaries of one librarian and two library assistants, and other ancillary items such as subscriptions to the national newspapers.
In addition, Ripple Africa pays for teachers to run the four adult literacy classes held each week and as well as the Saturday Children’s Corner.
The Project's Future
The library has quickly become an important community resource but it requires ongoing financial support. Since schools do not have nearly enough textbooks for students, the library is equipped with additional copies for student use. As the school curriculum and textbooks change, new books are critical so students have the resources necessary to succeed at school. In addition to the needed textbooks, the library would also benefit from books written in the local languages of ChiChewa and ChiTonga, as well as the continuous replacement of books due to prolonged usage.
Ripple Africa will continue to offer Adult Literacy and Children’s Corner to the community.
This project addresses the following Sustainable Development Goals: