Zimbabwe: Community library brings internet to remote village


Given the increasing tasks facing youths today, and the complex skills they must develop for future careers, Manzununu Community Library in Mutare South constituency has dedicated itself to giving unemployed youths the knowledge and connections that can improve their well-being.

This local community library is providing the necessary connections to opportunity and information under incredibly difficult circumstances. The librarian, George Maengamhuru, explained: “It is not only a gathering place for knowledge enrichment for the local community, but also serves as a window for the students and community to access the internet.”

The library also offers reading skills to many students, supplementary reading programmes to assist lcoal primary and secondary students and literacy programs for adults in the community.

Rerai Saburi, a young library user, said: “We use the library regularly for reading newspapers and accessing internet. We are very encouraged by the availability of this library as we can now access Facebook, write and send emails among other things.”

The library has four computers all connected to the internet. It is funded by the Friends of The African Village Libraries. School children pay $1 and adults pay $5 annual membership fee.

The local headman, John Chishakwe, told The Zimbabwean: “The library serves all those in the community - from those who are able to read, to the newly literate, to those who want to learn to read and write. We are now an educated community and we want to thank the donors for this project.”

The library received international attention in October 2010 when a Roman Catholic priest, Joseph Gulliver, visited the local Church. It started with a box of books and eight students, and from those small beginnings has evolved into an innovative learning centre now serving 250 students and all members of the community.

Steven Hodgson from the Friends of The African Village Libraries has big plans for the library – including more high-quality computers and high-speed Internet connection.

“We will provide training for the library’s computer skills trainer who will train groups of young people, and the most successful graduates will train others in the community. The Librarian will work with the trainees and support them in seeking jobs and other opportunities via the internet,” Hodgson said.

Manzununu village is an impoverished community, where many people live in overcrowded conditions and informal housing. Unemployment is high and amenities are scarce.

Computer literacy levels are low and computer and Internet facilities are only available at the library, where students sometimes sit three-deep to a computer. But thanks to their library, the world is their oyster and they can explore it online.