African Library Project

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Botswana Ministry of Education and Skills Development

Who we are

Botswana Image 1The Botswana Ministry of Education (BMOESD) is the official government body responsible for public education in Botswana.  Our mission is to provide efficient, quality and relevant education and training that is accessible to all.  Education contributes to good citizenship resulting in an enhanced socio-economic development of the nation.  All children and youth of Botswana have a right to education regardless of disability, gender, social class or ethnic group.

Botswana image 2The BMOESD provides pre-primary, primary, secondary, vocational, tertiary and special education through its schools located throughout the country. In 2010, the Ministry de-centralised its administrative structure, giving more authority to its twelve regional district offices.  Our district offices are spread throughout the country.  Most of our 803 primary schools are located in rural villages.  About half have been electrified.  70% of Botswana is covered by the Kalahari Desert, and our country is quite flat.

Even though we are making great strides, our primary schools in particular still lack resources, especially books.  We have been working very hard as a nation to meet the U.N. Millenium Development Goals.  Everyone in Botswana is helping us reach our goals outlined in our national Vision 2036 goals.  One of the "pillars" upon which this plan rests is to create "an informed and educated nation".  Our work with the African Library Project is helping us achieve this huge goal for the people of Botswana.

What daily life is like here

Our school day is from 8 am to 3 pm daily.  Many children do chores before and after school such as helping cook, cleaning their home or feeding their family's animals.  Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Botswana.  Our children also enjoy playing cricket, rugby and volleyball, as well as tradional games such as morabaraba (setswana chess) and koi (skipping rope).

Botswana image 3Most people have a rural cattle post where they look after their cows as well as a home in a village.  Cattle are very important to us and often used as a system of currency.  When a couple marries, the man must pay "lobola" or a bride price to the woman's family of eight or nine cows.

Botswana has long had a vibrant oral tradition with people passing along stories from generation to generation.  Reading is not a common way to pass time.  Gradually, as our students are gaining access to books in our new libraries, they are beginning to like to read more and enjoying the stories.  We learn to read in Setswana, then add English during our third year of school.  To pass the exams to get into secondary school, we must be fluent in English so this is a very important skill to our students.

Why we work with the African Library Project

Lesotho image 5Botswana has made great strides in educational development since we gained our independence in 1966.  However, we are still working hard to improve our primary schools.  We desperately need books.  When we first started working with the African Library Project in 2007, very few of our primary schools had a collection of books for students to read.  Now, one by one, district by district,  with ALP's help, we are starting and improving a library in every primary school.  Now, over half of our primary schools have libraries!  In addition, the African Library Project is helping us to learn how to set up our libraries and manage them to continually improve their quality.  We have learned a lot at the African Library Project Partners Summits and through ALP volunteers who have come to Botswana.

How we work with the African Library Project

Botswana 5The Kanye School District began first to work with the ALP and we started libraries in all 122 of our primary schools.  After seeing our success, other school districts begged us to help them get libraries in their primary schools.  We have now proudly helped all of the primary schools in three other school districts create libraries with ALP's books and are working on the fifth district.

The containers from the African Library Project are delivered by train from the port in Durban, South Africa to our capital city, Gaborone.  We pay for all the costs after the container arrives in Gaborone, such as clearing the container through customs and delivering the books to the Kanye Education Center.  When the container arrives, everyone at the center pitches in to unload and sort the boxes by school.  Each pre-selected school has been matched with an American book drive. Over the next several weeks, a driver delivers the books to the schools in a van.

A teacher from each school has been assigned to supervise the library. She uses a training manual sent by ALP to learn how to set up the library and visits other schools with libraries to learn from their experience.  Student committees are also organized to involve the children in working in the library.

LLBotswanaParentsHelping-10Parents are also important partners in the libraries.  They monitor the school library and work with the children through special displays such as the Culture Corner.  Parent Teacher Associations are active throughout Botswana and libraries have often been a priority project.  Parents understand how important books and reading are to the future of their children and are willing to do what they can to help support the libraries.

Botswana was proud to host the first ALP African Partners Summit in 2008.  About 20 of our staff took part and over 1000 Batswana attended a celebration of all of our new primary school libraries.  In 2017, it was our pleasure to host the Summit once again.  We are proud of what we have accomplished in Botswana with ALP and eagerly shared our beautiful libraries with our partners from eight other countries. We learned a lot of new ideas about what ideas work best in rural African libraries and we loved sharing our successful ideas, too.  These Summits are very exciting to us and we get a lot of inspiration and motivation from them on how to improve our libraries.

What we have accomplished with ALP

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So far, we have started or improved 503 libraries with the African Library Project in just eight years (as of June 2019)!  Our schools range from 100-900 students and of course, more come each year to take advantage of the library.  Over 517,000 of our students now can read during their regularly scheduled visits to the library.  At one of our schools, everyone including the administration comes in an hour early each day, just to read now.  We are experimenting with special weeks of just reading for our second and third graders to help improve their love of reading.  We have begun putting the building of libraries in our plans for new schools to be built because we now see the value of reading and have a way to get books.

Our hopes and wishes

Of course we want to give every student in Botswana the opportunity to choose books from a library and discover the world.  This would be a dream come true!

How you can help

Botswana Image 8Please organize a book drive to help start a library in Botswana! Books are helping our students learn about the rest of the world, become better thinkers and dream bigger dreams.  Doors are opening for Batswana as they grow in the knowledge they are gaining from so many books.  Our teachers are able to do a better job of teaching because they can refer to books to learn more about a subject before teaching it in class.  Our students are learning to love to read!

Our sincere thanks to the people making it happen

We wish to thank the African Library Project, all of the American book drive organizers who sent books to start libraries, the Kanye Umbrella PTA, all of our teacher-librarians and our students who are reading everyday to improve themselves.

To learn more about the African Library Project

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

Progress report:

Number of ALP Libraries in Botswana:  503 (June 2019)

Number of readers reached: 517,000