Peter Balaba is Head Librarian in Nakaseke Community Library in a very rural region of Uganda. Peter himself grew up in an area where there was no library in his school or village. As a result, when he left school, he couldn’t read properly or write well. It was only when his family moved to the city and he had access to a library that he learned these things.
Peter is keenly aware of how vital a library is for the whole community – it is much more than a building which houses books – it is a place for people to access new information, develop their skills and knowledge and improve their own lives through reading. Here, Peter tells us of some of the people in Nakaseke who benefit from the library:
Nakaseke is a very rural region, about two hours north-west from the capital of Kampala. Most of the population live as subsistence farmers, growing crops like coffee, maize or beans or raising animals. This is not a rich area. Perhaps sometimes people have enough produce to sell and make extra money, but very few people have books in their homes. No one has a computer to access the internet. This is why the library is so important for the community here.
For farmers in Nakaseke, the information the library provides is vital. It can mean the difference between a good crop and a bad one. A good crop will feed their families and leave something over to sell. A bad crop can mean ruin.
Florence is a bee farmer here who has been using the library to research farming techniques, from constructing hives to collecting honey. In the last three years she’s increased the number of her hives from ten hives to 75, and she has ambitions to grow even further – she would like 500 hives in the future.
There are no books in the schools here – they do not even have money to buy desks or chairs for the children. The classrooms are bare. So we run outreach programmes with local schools, which means that up to 100 children might be in the library – so many we have to put half of them in our reading tent outside! They also use the Children’s Corner that Book Aid International helped us to create. It’s a very special place for them, full of beautiful books and child-sized furniture.
I see children like eight year old Victoria develop such a love of books and reading. She has been coming to the library in the last year with her little sister Priscilla and her father Livingstone. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up, and Livingstone believes that she can achieve this, with hard work and the help of the library.
David, 21, grew up in Nakaseke and has been coming to the library since his mum brought him while he was still in nursery school. The reading activities here helped him learn to read and later, while studying for his secondary school exams, the encyclopaedias helped him research, revise and pass his exams. Using the books and computer in the library, he’s managed to successfully complete secondary school and is now going to university to study Art and Education.