World Vision Uganda supporting reading in schools

School library gives hope to young readers in Uganda

Along a dusty road from Kirundi trading centre, a few kilometres off the Hoima-Kakumiro highway, you can see a new building with orange paint on the left-hand side. Asked what it is, a boy about seven years old responds, "that is a bookstore.”

Books and metallic boxes containing other reading materials decorate the brown timber shelves. In straight columns are wooden desks that work as reading tables. There are three columns in the hall, each with ten desks. On average, each desk accommodates three readers, meaning the reading hall can have 90 readers read comfortably at the same time.

A few years back, such a reading environment was not conceivable. The environment at one of the local primary schools was congested with a dilapidated bookstore that lacked desks. Gertrude Birungi, who doubles as the teacher in charge of the library and First Grade teacher says, this library had a direct negative impact on the reading culture of boys and girls. "Children hated the place. We had a small bookstore without reading tables. A few children who came around would sit in the dust or read under the tree shade”, she tells us.

It is not surprising that Kakumiro was among the poor performing districts in literacy, according to the 2020 Uganda National Examination Board Report. Here, 72% of Primary Three and 60% Primary Six learners could not read and comprehend questions meant for the Primary One and Three, respectively.

World Vision Uganda Education Learning skills
Before World Vision constructed a library at the primary school, books, most obsolete, were stored in a tiny room that also acted as garden tool store. Rats and termites destroyed the books, rendering the reading environment non-conducive for learners.
 

Most schools in this new district cut out of Kibaale had no books. For the few schools that had some resemblance of books, their stock was either obsolete or just a pile of dirty torn papers with missing covers and riddled pages.

“Rats and termites would eat the books", says Eve, the primary school headteacher. "We didn’t even have the reading space for children. We just had a small cupboard that was placed in the headteacher’s office but later transferred to the storeroom where we also kept gardening tools such as wheelbarrows, hoes, and rakes.”

World Vision Uganda supports reading through community literacy centres.
Before the construction of the library.
 

While many children in more developed contexts have access to digital libraries and reading spaces well set up, their peers here in Kakumiro must shuffle through the waffle of garden equipment to access books—old and outdated ones, moreover. 

Lack of relevant reading materials and reading spaces had rendered hordes of children going to school learning little or nothing beyond classroom sessions.

World Vision Uganda supports reading through community literacy centres.
Teacher Gertrude guides a pupil reading in the new library hall constructed with the support of World Vision. Today, more children are interested in reading due to an improved reading environment.
 

Inspired by the desire to increase the number of children who can read and write, World Vision worked with parents and the school management to support the construction of a library with a total enrolment of 1,010 at the start of the new term. The solar-powered library, stocked with the latest books and other learning materials relevant to the primary syllabus, is the first of its kind in the district.

“Now, children can read anytime," says Gertrude. "We have all the books, and the reading space is conducive!"

Biira Jackline, a school management committee member, says the library has significantly contributed to a change of attitude among parents, an increase of 13% in enrolment from 850 in 2019 to 1,010 in 2022. "It was always a struggle when it came to convincing parents from surrounding communities to bring their children", she says.

Busingye Paul, another member, says that is in the past. “The enrolment keeps improving with most parents now proactively involved in the learning of their children”, he says. “They are making learning materials from locally available resources and supporting reading at home.”

World Vision Uganda constructs a library to improve literacy
Gertrude looks at the new stock of books. The library hall can have 90 readers read comfortably at the same time.
 

With an adequate stock of books, children can now borrow books weekly for personal reading. These are closely supervised and monitored by their respective class teachers to ensure proper book use.

Philip, a 12-year-old Primary Six pupil is a regular user of the new reading space. "I thank World Vision for this space; it is nice and quiet. I always come to read from here because you can concentrate", he says.

Because of the generosity of people like you, children from Kakumiro and Uganda are accessing quality reading and learning materials and a safe space to grow. Every $1 invested returns $5 more.

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Story and Photos by John Muchope - Education Technical Officer for World Vision in Uganda