Mwaya Community Library
Ripple Africa has constructed and maintains the Mwaya Community Library – a community library which was opened in 2005 and contains a wide variety of books for adults and children which has proved to be a very popular facility. In Malawi, very few people have access to any books at all, yet the link between books and literacy is self-explanatory. In addition to the obvious educational benefits, access to books is critical to developing a greater understanding of the world.
Books provide entertainment, knowledge, reference, advice, and exposure to outside cultures, practices, and views. A library not only helps to encourage the habit of reading, but inspires a thirst for knowledge which generates understanding and openness to new ideas.
We love seeing the wonder in the faces of people when they first visit the library, and the response of young children captivated by the musical books and colourful collections of children’s fiction. However, it is seeing library members reading Shakespeare, and community members viewing picture books of what animals look like in different countries for the very first time, that really touches our hearts. The Community Library is important not only because it supports education – one of Ripple Africa’s three pillars of activity – but for the varied and complex ways it is enjoyed by so many people in the community. As most of the residents in our area live on under a $1 a day, this free resource is vital.
Adult Literacy and Children’s Corner
Ripple Africa supports adult literacy in Malawi through the running of four adult literacy classes at Mwaya Community Library. The sessions are open to those living in Mwaya, Mazembe, Katenthere and other surrounding villages. The Children’s Corner session on a Saturday is also open to children in these areas.
- pays the salaries of a teacher and an assistant teacher at each adult literacy class
- pays the salary of a reading assistant for Children’s Corner
- facilitates a weekly lesson planning session for the four
- provides ongoing support for Mwaya Community Library including the purchase of new books.
All the students who attend the classes are members of the library and are able to borrow books to use each week to support their learning.
Illiteracy is a problem throughout Africa, and Malawi is no exception where a lack of access to quality education, high student to teacher ratios, high primary school drop-out rates, and low secondary school enrolment all contribute to generally low literacy rates which mean many people struggle with basic day to day tasks.
According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (March 2016), 65.75% of the adult population (aged 15 years and above) in Malawi can read and write. For adult men, the literacy rate is 73% and for women it is 59%.
Literacy is generally worse amongst older adults than amongst younger people. The youth literacy rate (literacy amongst people age 15-24) in Malawi is 75%. While primary education has been free in Malawi since 1994, many adults who were school age before this period may never have attended primary school at all, and those who did attend may only have attended intermittently as and when their families could afford to pay the necessary school fees.
Literacy is critically important because being able to read and write makes a huge difference to doing many simple day to day activities. This is reflected in some of the reasons community members have given for joining the classes, including wanting:
- to be able to read the newspaper instead of just looking at the pictures
- to help their children with homework
- to understand forms
- to write letters
- to join the library
- to read a simple story to their children.