When we opened our second wing in 2009 it was immediately made into a children’s library. It caters for the primary school children who use it in the afternoons after school has ended, and on Saturday mornings. They come to read and to borrow books, but they also come for help with their homework, and to enjoy other activities such as drama and games. Our schools co-ordinator often reads to the younger children who have not yet mastered reading themselves. She also visits the children’s ward in the provincial hospital which is close by, even assisting some of those children who are long-term patients to keep up with their work. Mothers in the maternity ward also asked to be included, so she began reading to them and showing them how they can read to their children.
During the period 2007-2009 schools in Zimbabwe were in continuing chaos. For much of the time the teachers were on strike and when they were teaching there was such a lack of textbooks and writing materials that very little learning took place. The situation improved 2009-2013 but is now slipping back so that resources are few and the quality of learning often questionable. Unfortunately during those years of confusion many children fell behind in their learning. Many of those in grades 1-4 in those years even failed to learn to read, and no special remedial programme was introduced.
During the first term of 2009 when our children’s wing had just opened, teachers were on strike for most of the term; we operated a children’s programme every morning, introducing games and other activities as well as reading to the younger children. This brought many children into the library and many have continued to come as members. Since then, our schools co-ordinator has developed a programme of visiting the primary schools in Gwanda town to assist those children who have difficulties with reading and need extra help. A significant number of them are now reading, and the teachers in the schools have learned how to assist those who need extra help. Unfortunately it is not possible to extend this programme to rural schools. The Ministry of Education does not have any programme for learners with difficulties or those who simply fell behind.
It is our aim to encourage as many children as possible to make use of the library, to enjoy it as a friendly and exciting place, thus sparking their interest in reading for enjoyment and for information for the rest of their lives. We continue to offer a variety of activities to the school children.