One of the beneficiaries of the Lubuto Mthunzi American Youth Library is 24-year-old Hannah, who lives in Lusaka West, with her two children and her parents. Hannah first found out about the Lubuto Mthunzi American Youth Library (LMAYL) during an outreach session conducted by the library staff, and out of curiosity, decided to go and visit the library. Since that first visit, she has become a regular at the library and treasures her time there so much that she walks a distance of 3 km nearly every day in order to access the library services.
The LMAYL has served as a platform for a broad range of programming including efforts aimed at encouraging youth to stay in school. One of these programs is a scholarship fund that covers everything required for girls to attend secondary school, and Hannah, who dropped out of school in 2011 after becoming pregnant, applied and was accepted into this program.
“I am so happy to go back to school after being out of school for 6 years! I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the library,” Hannah said when asked how she felt about the library and the scholarship she had received.
Stories like Hannah’s—of girls who have little to no opportunity to access potentially life-changing education—abound in the area. In spite of state legislation that allows young mothers to re-enroll in secondary school, the cost of school fees, uniforms and supplies creates an especially high barrier for this group who have children to provide for. However, accessing Lubuto’s library services has provided a way for youth who would otherwise be excluded from the mainstream education system to be connected to educational opportunities, and in doing so, the LMAYL is directly changing the lives of marginalized youth in the area. The success of the LMAYL illustrates the effectiveness of the American library model in both reaching and supporting youth who are overlooked by many other forms of youth empowerment.
The American people’s generosity has provided underprivileged and vulnerable youth in Lubuto’s area of operation with an expertly curated, contextually relevant book collection, which grants them access to knowledge. What they learn at the library teaches American values that will help them strive towards leading civic-minded lives. In a country that allocates few resources to youth-friendly public library services, the opportunity granted to the Lubuto Mthunzi American Youth Library users would otherwise not have been possible.