IF you are reading this article in its full english version then you should be functionally literate to a point that enables you to do both simple arithmetics and pursue logic at an elementary level.
There are about six weeks to go till the Christmas holidays officially kick off, and this is a suggestion for you to present a gift that will keep on giving into future generations.
According to the Electoral Commission 2016 General Elections statistics, we have about 58,000 villages in Uganda. World Bank statistics in general state that 84.23% of Ugandans lived in the ‘rural areas’ by 2014, which means about 16% of us are in urban areas.
Wikipedia, which some people believe is the best source of information on the internet, lists only four (4) libraries in Uganda under ‘Libraries in Uganda‘, though one of those is the National Library of Uganda (the others are Busolwe Public Library, Kitengesa Community Library and Makerere University Library).
They are listed because they are part of a specific network of ‘Community Libraries’, but please visit them yourself to assess what is going on.
So the internet basically shows we don’t have enough libraries in this country, which gets in the way of our producing well-educated or even well-informed Ugandans (don’t count internet access).
The same internet told me that the National Library of Uganda was established by an Act of Parliament in 2003, and replaced the Public Libraries Board of 1964, and that the first public library in Uganda was established in 1927 (in Entebbe).
Where are our libraries?
At the districts, according to the Local Governments Act of 1997 which moved the management of libraries to districts, under functions and services for which district councils are responsible. The paragraph in full reads:
“Aiding and supporting the establishment and maintenance of schools, hospitals, libraries, art galleries, museums, tourist centres, homes for the aged, destitute or infirm or for the orphans, and providing bursaries to assist in the education of children of persons residing in the district, making donations to charitable and philanthropic, welfare, youth, persons with disabilities, women and sports organisations.”
Now that we are done with campaigns and elections and we know who our district leaders are, how about we help them with this function, by going back to the above mentioned arithmetics?
The National Census of November 2014 put us at 35 million – which is 5.6million Ugandans.
Let’s assume that only ten percent of those can afford to go upcountry for the Christmas break or to send gifts home to their villages – that would be 560,000 Ugandans.
If those 560,000 Ugandans are divided up equally amongst the villages we have about ten (10) Ugandans per village.
Now, if YOU went to school and can read and comprehend well enough to go beyond the simple arithmetic, identify nine other Ugandans from YOUR village and together gather up books to go and start stocking up a community library near your village home.
Make that YOUR Christmas gift to your village mates and consider that you are going to use a small and very cheap gesture to make a massive impact to the lives of the most vulnerable.
We have six weeks, so we can do A LOT and not only support the district councils responsible for this, but also challenge them. Even before we think of library buildings, let’s get books into the villages – sensible books that we believe would be good for children.
One family I know has done the calculation and realized that the cost per head of going to the village for Christmas is so high that topping it up with a couple of hundred thousand shillings for the entire family doesn’t change much – but means a whole load of books for the village children.
At various traffic jam spots there are people illegally vending or hawking books at Ushs2,000-Ushs5,000 each – same as the cost of a cup of peas also being vended, or a beer in a nearby kafunda that you will leave running down a drain after a scientific process by evening’s end.
Buy one book every week of these remaining six weeks and when you go to the village for Christmas, present them to your district council for inclusion in the district library, complete with a stamp stating who has made the donation.
If the district hasn’t yet employed a librarian, you are immediately creating over 120 jobs right there. More importantly, though, this Christmas you will be getting more Ugandans to read all over the country.
The next phase of this is for each family to write one story each and publish a book of your own – but that is another discussion, very closely related.