African Library Project

University of Malawi

Who we are

malawi grpUniversity of Malawi is located in Zomba, a mountainous area in southern Malawi. At 5000 students, we are the largest of the four government-run colleges. Our 25 academic departments offer a variety of undergraduate programs and a selection of Masters and PhD programs. We are committed to achieving sustainable social, economic and technological development in Malawi.

The University of Malawi Library supports the teaching, learning and research of the university’s students and faculty by lending library materials, providing research assistance, computer access and training. The library’s 300,000 titles include sections on law, Malawi, journals, periodicals and the American and Chinese Corners. The library is a popular place for students to study and do research.

The library staff actively works to put books into the hands of Malawian primary and secondary students through their partnership with the African Library Project.

What daily life is like here

Daily life - CCLMost Malawians live in simple homes of mud brick with leaf or tin roofs. Rural homes do not have electricity or running water. Most Malawians spend their time hauling water, collecting firewood, growing crops and trying to survive. Most roads are unpaved and there are few cars. The cars drive on the left side of the road as we were a British Colony until 1964. People walk or use bicycles and oxcarts for transportation.

90% of rural Malawians are subsistence farmers. Our country is one of the world’s least developed and most densely populated and has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world. The dropout rates in schools are higher for girls than boys because of cultural norms whereby many parents do not see the value of educating a girl child. Girls can also be attacked during the long walks to schools. Overall, however, attendance rates are improving, youth literacy is climbing and class sizes are shrinking. Malawi is known as “the warm heart of Africa” because our people are welcoming and generous.

Why we work with the African Library Project

Why we work - CCLThe University of Malawi’s mission is “To create and share knowledge by engaging in teaching, research, consultancy, and outreach activities in response to the needs of Malawi and the region.” Our work with the African Library Project is the perfect outreach activity for our library to contribute to the university’s mission.

Despite the large number of titles in the University of Malawi’s Library, there is an enormous shortage of books in Malawi. Most of our schools get a single textbook for each class. The average class size is 90 students and some of the rural schools have more than double that. Many teachers in rural areas are not trained teachers, so our students have many obstacles to overcome in achieving an education. Nevertheless, our students are very eager to learn. The books in a library help bridge the enormous gap as each book acts as a teacher. The HIV/AIDS children’s readers that ALP provides are critical resources in educating our population to reduce the high incidence of HIV in Malawi.

How we work with the African Library Project

StIgnatiusSecWe distribute and vet applications from Malawian schools and villages that are eager to develop a library. Our 75 staff members have a deep background in library science and we utilize our expertise in training library paraprofessionals at the certificate level to assist teacher-librarians in setting up and running a simple school library. We include ALP-related activities in our budget to assure we have the monetary resources to support this work. Unusual in Malawi, the university library has uninterrupted internet connection plus computers and scanners to coordinate with our partners in the USA and throughout Malawi. We also have access to college vehicles to help distribute the books and radio and television access to create awareness in the surrounding communities of our offer to help start local libraries.

What we have accomplished with ALP

What we accomplished - CCLThe University of Malawi joined ALP as a partner in 2017. We immediately reached out to and vetted 22 schools, submitting their applications to the African Library Project. We received our first books as part of ALP's 9th container to Malawi and a second set for another 22 schools in the 10th container in 2018.  We are currently working on our third container of books for over 30 schools.

Click here to listen to: Chanco radio program "Hope for Malawi" about the distribution of ALP books.

This is a terrific local radio program that was done at the distribution of the 2018 container in Malawi.  Features: 

00:45   ALP partner and University of Malawi librarian, Nancy Mpekansambo, explaining how ALP and Chancellor College work together to create libraries;

12:40  The president of University of Malawi talking about the importance of reading and access to reading materials to better prepare students for college and to develop the country;

15:45  A former professor who founded a community library in Chringa with his own books and received a consignment of ALP books to improve the collection;

20:30  A teacher-librarian from Mulanje Secondary School who talks about the training he received and how his school is ready to turn the books into a library.

Our hopes and wishes

We are so proud to be doing this work! Our vision is to help provide hundreds of thousands of Malawian children with the books and information they need to achieve their dreams. We hope that with the aid of these resources, more and more students will qualify to attend the University of Malawi and contribute to the improvement of Malawi.

How you can help


Collect books and the money to ship them to Malawi! I wish you could see firsthand the huge difference a library makes to our students and teachers. Schools with a good library feel hopeful about their students’ futures and an enormous sense of pride in this invaluable resource. Many of our brightest children do not attend secondary school or university because they did not have access to books during their schooling.

Our sincere thanks to the people making it happen

Our sincere thanks - CCLWe are grateful for the overall support we are receiving from the university administration for this work. We also appreciate the collegial relationship we have with all of the ALP partners in Malawi. Thank you, DAPP, for clearing the containers from the USA.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the amazing team in the USA and their inspiring gang of book drive organizers. We cannot thank them enough for their efforts to help us get books into the hands of our students.

To learn more about the African Library Project

Explore the website, join the African Library Project mailing list and become an ALP Facebook Fan.

Project Report

ALP Libraries in Malawi: 465 (August 2018)

Readers reached: 697,500