Libraries abandoned…

Despite the standard of education having been affected by the political turmoil of the last decade, many believe it is still the highest in the continent. Zimbabwean professionals are regarded highly, not only in Africa, but the world over.

Educational institutions such as libraries have facilitated this sterling reputation, but a visit to some of those institutions today shows that unless something is done soon, they could become obsolete.

Libraries, like many other public facilities, have been abandoned by responsible authorities. The windows have been broken and, in the majority of cases, the toilets are in sorry state.

Surfers replace readers

Books hang precariously on the disjointed shelves gathering dust. Many of them are worn and torn, or they are missing pages. Some of the academic text books have been replaced by later editions which the authorities are failing to stock. Glen Norah library used to be full of students from surrounding schools. The library has sections for adults and children and it was common to see people queuing all day for their turn to use the facility. Today this is far from a reality.

The perimeter fence has been vandalised and the stench from the nearby bush is overwhelming. One official, who has worked at the library for more than 15 years, attributed the library’s decline to a new generation of students who were shunning the facility. “Many students no longer use the library. They prefer to go to the internet cafe and surf rather than using hard copies of books. We are no longer as busy as we used to be, even the records show that we are operating at less than 20 percent capacity,” he said. Students confessed that they no longer used the libraries. A form six student from Glen View High said he used the library once when he was at Ordinary Level.

“I went to the library to prepare for my examination, but I was disappointed, the library had no adequate books and I had to patch the book that I was using together because it was torn,” he said.

Preserve culture

Veteran Educationist, Lisbon Mhonda, urged the government and the city council to revamp libraries country wide to preserve a culture of reading.

“These facilities are our educational heritage. They are there for a purpose and relevant authorities should provide money to cater for the institutions as they save the community,” said Mhonda.

He added that the state of the libraries was just an epitaph on the death of quality education in the country.

“It is common knowledge that Zimbabwe’s education was a model for the rest of Africa. However, the economic meltdown affected every sector, including education. The decay of libraries is just the tip of the ice-berg,” he said.

Mhonda encouraged the authorities to make use of the subscription fee paid by members each month for upkeep and maintenance of the libraries. He noted that the subscription fee ranged from $5 to $10 and, if put to good use, could help to renovate the library and stock new books.

The Harare City Council Spokesperson, Leslie Gwindi, is on record saying that the council was facing man power shortages and could not afford to improve service delivery.

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