Christie Vilsack visits Lubuto
This month, our Ngwerere Lubuto Library was fortunate to receive a visit from Christie Vilsack, USAID's Senior Education Advisor. Christie Vilsack is a great friend of Lubuto and of public libraries in general, and she has a deep understanding of the important role good public libraries can play in a nation's educational development. Lubuto's staff, partners and library users gave her a fantastic tour: Eleni, our architect, explained the traditional Zambian design of our library buildings, and presented the beginnings of our new and improved LubutoLiteracy lessons. Christie was also able to meet Dr. Mwansa, who designed the new lessons according to the new school curriculum, as well as the young developers, assemblers and sound recorders creating the computer-based lessons in the new eXe platform. Thomas, Lubuto's Library Services Advisor, discussed our plans for rolling out a new information literacy program at the libraries and showed her the digital repository of Zambian literature we are developing. Ms. Vilsack also had a chance to read with the children, watch a drama performance and explore our well-chosen book collection. We're so happy when those who support us in the U.S. get a chance to see our libraries as strong centers of community in person. You can see more photos of the visit on our flickr page.
Meet our new Regional Director!
Along with Christie Vilsack in the photo above is Lieke Berghauser Pont, Lubuto's new Regional Director. Lieke will work from our Lusaka office to oversee our staff and operations, particularly the management of our two major grants, and bring her leadership expertise to our innovative library services for children and youth. Lieke is a native of the Netherlands, but has worked in NGOs and the non-profit sector in Senegal, Vietnam, Cameroon and Benin and holds an MA in Human Geography from the University of Amsterdam. Most recently, she has worked with dance4life, an international movement inspiring youth to fight HIV/AIDS. With expertise in project management, education and resource mobilization, we're excited for all she will contribute to our work in Zambia!
Lubuto's new services for teens
While the Zambian government has strived to provide universal primary education for all Zambian children, the same access is not guaranteed to those aspiring to secondary education and beyond. Students finishing primary school are required to sit for rigorous exams to determine if they will be able to continue their studies. This year, only one third of those who took the exams have passed, so many teenagers will soon be out of school with few prospects for employment or support. This is why Lubuto's services for teens are so important, and why we've already had such an impact. Many of the developers and creators of our LubutoLiteracy lessons began visiting the libraries when they were unable access formal schooling, and have thrived and built technology skills through our programs and support. Thomas, our Library Services Advisor, has also initiated a variety of teen-focused activities into the weekly schedule at the libraries, including book club that began with reading Nelson Mandela's memoir A Long Walk to Freedom. Other important biographies and valuable stories, as well as film screenings aimed at engaging teens, are now being introduced.
Information Literacy Programming
In a recent assessment, Zambian students ranked lowest in the region in both basic math and reading. With so many of these students unable to continue their education past a basic level, Zambia's children and youth face the challenge of identifying their information needs and navigating both manual and computer-based sources to continue their engagement in society. Lubuto believes public libraries need to step in and provide youth with skills to find the information that they need to lead a successful life. Through our daily interactions with our library users over the years, particularly during LubutoLiteracy instruction and OLPC laptop use, we have identified the need for Lubuto libraries to offer training not only in digital literacy, but information literacy.
Our information literacy program will start with teaching youth how to understand and articulate their information needs and use printed information sources in our libraries. This will be followed by basic computer literacy training and then skills in searching for information in a computer-based environment using offline resources (e.g., the World Book Encyclopedia on DVD). When internet access is established in our libraries, we will teach effective internet searching through a portal to carefully selected internet resources that we will create. Navigating our online library catalog is an important information literacy tool and through a new partnership with the Zambia Information Communications and Technology Authority (ZICTA) we anticipate free internet access in our libraries in the near future.
Dr. Akakandelwa, an information literacy expert at the University of Zambia, confirmed the need for information literacy education as a national priority, and he feels we will provide a good model for use in Zambian schools that could perhaps even revitalize school libraries. In general, libraries in Zambia are not providing neither an avenue for users to become information literate, nor free accessible internet. Under this program we will be vocal advocates for the rights of children and youth to information literacy and internet access.
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