Invest more in school libraries to shore up learning standards

 Mang’u High School library

Students at the Mang’u High School library.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Teachers and learners depend on purchased text books for reading and reference with no additional or variety of information materials.
  • In developed countries, school libraries play great roles in the academic and social development of learners.

Over the years, Kenya’s education development programmes and policies have failed to unmute the importance of school libraries.

Policy makers patched at the populous Education Ministry skip this important tool of academic excellence while they navigate around curriculum changes, and other school aspects. School libraries, however, have a great potential of turning around academic performances and standards.

Rarely in existence, and yet poorly stocked, organised and utilised, school libraries elusively fail to play the required role of an ideal information centre in a learning institution whose purpose is to develop literacy and reading culture in learners and support teaching programmes.

Recent research reports show that there is lack of elaborate national policies guiding the establishment and management of libraries in schools while such efforts are dependent on individual school managements.

According to the surveys, it seems education policies highly focus on developing academic (university libraries) while sidelining school libraries.

Nevertheless it should be noted that lack of a developed information literacy and reading culture backgrounds among school leavers hamper learning in universities and other post school institutions.

Although library orientation is one of the “must do things” among new students joining universities in Kenya, many of these school leavers find it difficult to adopt to the library systems due to the poor information literacy backgrounds and hence fail to make adequate use of library resources.

It is a matter of great interest for a fourth year student leaving the university without having registered with the library or never to have borrowed a book from the library.

Universities spend tens of millions of shillings annually to establish, stock and manage academic libraries in a bid to support teaching and research.

Foremost users of university libraries including teaching staff and students undergo elaborate profiling, education and orientation programmes by qualified library workers in an effort to promote efficient use of library resources.

In schools, however, limited funds are allocated towards establishing and managing school information centres. Schools do not have library policies to guide library infrastructure, acquisition, user training and staffing.

Teachers and learners depend on purchased text books for reading and reference with no additional or variety of information materials.

While tens of unemployed youth are library and information trainees from our local tertiary and higher learning institutions who can be absorbed in school libraries, poor academic performances should partly be blamed on the scarcity of library policies in our schools.

The government and other stakeholders can help create jobs while improving academic performances in schools through school libraries.

In developed countries, school libraries play great roles in the academic and social development of learners. Every year, thousands of jobs are advertised in these countries targeting home and foreign young people to take up jobs as library clerks, library technicians, library assistants and library ICT personnel.

The School Librarians Association of United Kingdom (SLA), for example, is a Non -Governmental Organization that promotes training of school librarians, school libraries policies moderation through funding, establishment and proper management of school libraries in the UK.

The American Association of School Librarians is also an NGO that supports growth and development of library services in American schools.

Interestingly and ironically, Kenya was a founder member of the International Association of School Libraries (IASL) that was founded in Jamaica in 1971.

IASL advocates for library resources in schools to support learning and develop the social and economic behaviour of the school community through literacy skills.

The organization holds its annual International School Library Month in October to celebrate the success of school libraries worldwide. Where is Kenya’s school libraries space in these celebrations?

esindabi2018@gmasil.com

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