Educate a Child and You Educate a Nation
One man’s attempt to change
If you educate a child in an African village you have educated the whole village. This was very true for me and I am sure many others as we were growing up and had to write or read mail for our parents or the neighbors. I would sit by the paraffin lamp at night and, like a trained secretary, pen a letter to my father as my mother dictated. Needless to say sometimes I paraphrased her words or made them up. I would be called over to the neighbors to read a letter from their long gone son living in the city. This was all possible because my parents made sure that I would receive some education at whatever cost to them. This sometimes meant selling the only remaining cow to pay my and my siblings’ school fees.
Occasionally my father would bring a book whenever he made it to the village especially on Christmas or Easter holidays. It was a treasure. I would read thru it and read again and again and again. I couldn’t wait for the next semester so I could show off with my book. By then probably it would have a few pages missing or soiled from over reading. Ah! So much for nostalgia.
The main thing that these occasional read,s including Jehovah’s witnesses material which the local members occasionally dropped at our house regardless of whether we liked or not, was that my grammar, spelling, reading and general knowledge improved. When I later enrolled at a city school with a library facility, I enjoyed spending time in there reading. I even got a summer volunteer job labeling and restacking books in our school library. In return I had special access to a locked glass cabinet with the Jennings series and the Biggles series; the most-sort after teenage books at that time.
And when I came over to the United States and saw the abundance of books that in most cases are left on trains, buses and thrown in trash cans or sent for recycle, my heart bled and still bleeds for the one child in a village of Zimbabwe that I know would forever be grateful if he could get his hands on that book. Just imagining a little girl or boy in elementary school standing in front of the class reading from a children’s book that I could provide, motivated me to want to do something about it; to see this not as a dream but reality. I shared this idea with a few of the people who have always allowed me to dream and they saw the vision too.
But things were slow, too slow for my liking. So I started collecting books wherever I could find them including my kids’ books which were under the beds, in closets and everywhere else when they were not being used. I also made some rounds in thrift shops ferreting thru the 50 cents-a-book piles. Before I knew it I had a substantial amount (over 300) children’s books for Pre-K and Kindergarten. I paid a fortune to get them fedexed to Zimbabwe and to a local school in my locale where I own a house.
A quick call to an old lost friend got the project started. Ideally I was going to give the local school have books but I would employ the librarian and pay the librarian (whom I was going to make sure that he/she would be trained to run the library efficiently). All I needed was for the school to be a benefactor as the students at that school and from the township would benefit from the free books.
This (if it had succeeded) would have been the first ever library in Ruwa and Zimre Park 30 kms East of Harare. I could envision how this small step in the right direction was going to change the educational landscape in this area one child at a time. However this was the beginning of the end for the project as my contact ran into bureaucratic hurdles that are typical of our African culture and politics. The local councilor had to be involved, and the Member of Parliament for the whole district, the Education Ministry officials all the way down to the Zanu Pf youth league. It saddened me to know that although none of these people were paying a dime for the project they denied every poor child in the area a life long chance to read a book and improve themselves in their educational pursuit. Needless to say even their kids were going to benefit. These fat cats wanted to be associated with the project obviously for political gain. The books are now sitting at my friend’s house, and I hope his kids and their friends are reading them.
I am not giving up. I am more motivated now, than ever to make it a success this time around. Perhaps it is because of the new political dispensation now prevailing in the country that I can be in contact with the new education Minister and his officials and hopefully they will support the project. In the same spirit I hope those who had wanted to support this project before are still willing to do so.
I am hoping that we can start a mobile library that will travel to the remotest areas around the community and visit schools at least once in two weeks to enable kids to borrow books and read them, then return them on the next visit. This project will depend solely on donations as it will not be a profit making venture.
For further information on how to donate your used books to this project please contact Norman Madawo at
214-503-8144 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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