How deplorable state of libraries impedes student performance

Monday, October 31st, 2022 10:00 | By
How deplorable state of libraries impedes student performance
Gilbert Ghome, a teacher and director of studies at Joel Omino Secondary School at the institution’s library. BELOW: Joan Mwachi, Worldreader East Africa Regional Director. PD/NOVEN OWITI

Stakeholders in the education sector have raised alarm over what they term as deplorable state of libraries in public primary and secondary schools.

They say, even though most schools have a collection of books, the so-called libraries are functioning out of cupboards or racks, are not enough for all the students, and some, especially in primary schools are not engaging as they lack colour and illustrations and above all, don’t match the students reading levels to meet the educational needs of the learners.

 A spot check by Scholar established that most of the basic learning institutions have libraries that are not properly functional as they lack text books and other essential learning materials. Other schools lack proper structures to accommodate the libraries.

For instance, the library at Kisumu Boys’ High school in Kisumu County is not serving the purpose effectively, because of insufficient space and resources.

Principal Dancun Owiye says the school’s library is constrained and no longer serves the students’ growing population.

Even though students can access some text books from the library, Owiye says the facility is too small and cannot effectively serve the needs of the school.

Increased student enrollment

The students borrow books from the library to study in their classrooms, because only about 30 per cent of the students can access the school libraryy. “The capitation funds given by the government is not sufficient to buy other necessary textbooks. We rely on donations from the school alumni to stock our library,” he says.

“With the 100 per cent transition policy, Kisumu Boys’ alongside other secondary schools have concentrated on addressing the most urgent needs to accommodate the extra students,” he adds.

Pandprieri Primary School in Kisumu Central Constituency shares similar predicaments. The school has two libraries, which are distinctively used by lower and upper primary pupils, but cannot effectively serve the intended purpose due to overriding needs occasioned by a high number of students.

To cope with the situation, the  school headteacher Alex Diang’a s relies on the support of parents to bridge the gap in equipping its libraries.

Aside from the government’s supplied course books, he says the school has to look for alternative ways to get related study books, such as story books to have the libraries fairly stocked. As such, Diang’a says parents occasionally chip in to buy certain textbooks for their children, noting that in a class of 60 pupils, about 30 to 40 parents are able to purchase a book. “Because the capitation funding is not enough, we have also given parents the duty of providing at least a book for their children and the response is positive,” he says.

Assess pupils’ literacy levels

Consequently, not all learners in the school are able to access the library to get textbooks for studies due to limited space, as well as lack of resources.

And to deal with the dire situation, the school has developed a model to monitor how pupils can access the library to borrow book, through a programme dubbed Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL), which aims to assess the pupils’ literacy levels. The teaching model is used to identify children with ability to read and those unable. In the programme coordinated by respective class teachers, those who can read are allowed to acquire books from the library.

The initiative is run through a reading club, bringing together children who have difficulty reading. “We are able to cure the reading problem by narrowing down to the specific problem of every child. Those identified to be poor in reading are gradually guided by the teachers on how to read,” Diang’a explains.

The TaRL programme equally helps to nurture reading culture among the learners.

Additionally, he says the school has established a network with the Kenya National Library in Kisumu to facilitate the use of the facility by its learners.

Periodically, preferably during weekends, the pupils borrow books from the library and return within two weeks. This is helping to supplement their need for reading.

At Victoria Primary School, an initial library was turned into a classroom to accommodate an increased number of pupils under the 100 per cent transition. As a result, pupils pick text books and study in classes.

The school headteacher Edward Omala says the high enrollment of learners in recent times has put strain on the administration running the library. “Apart from course books the school has a few story books and past newspapers which learners use to help their teachers conduct library lessons,” he says.

He says the school faces difficulty running a library as many parents are not willing to either support the construction of a library or donate books to supplement what the government provides, lamenting the state of the economy.

He recommends that modern libraries be set up in schools as a way of inculcating a reading culture among learners. Similarly, he wants more community libraries established to support uptake of learning. The school head observes that studying should not only be centred in schools, but should extend to homes through community libraries.  “Learning is a continuous process and for us to develop a prosperous society, then I believe such an initiative would be critical in nurturing a reading culture among the young generation,” he states.

At Joel Omino Secondary School, the newly built library is up and running even as the administration is upbeat it is serving the purpose of promoting reading among students.

Gilbert Ghome, a teacher and director of studies at the school says the modern library established one year ago, is being maximised by students for studies.

Outdated or torn books

The library is equipped with a series of books ranging from syllabus, revision, set-tests, novels to story books. It also has reference materials, revision papers, journals and magazines. Students use the facility in the morning hours, at break time and during games time. “The only setback is that the library doesn’t have enough resources, such as chairs and tables,” says Ghome.

He says the government consistently supplies the school with textbooks, but for the last one year, the institution is yet to receive new books.  “Stocking of the library is done almost every year. In future we  want the number of books increased to serve the growing population of students. We have improvised an open space where students gather to read once they  get books from the library,” he says. 

Mombasa County schools are also are  also  behind in acquiring and sustaining a fully functioning library. Most of the school principles cite lack of financial support and articulated policies.

The principal, Star of The Sea High School Mombasa, Agnes Tumbo says the school barely has an actual library. “It’s unfortunate but we don’t have a library that is in operation at the school right now. What we have is like a study room. It is very small. The reading culture in the school is also very poor, and unfortunately this was the situation at my former school in Makueni County, Mulala Girls. So the state is not very pleasing,” she shares.

Being a day school, the school has barely enough time to access the few functioning computers in the school. “There is hope in boarding schools when it comes to accessing libraries, but with day schools, the students barely have the time to access libraries, or the few functioning computers available in the school,” she added.

Speaking on the same situation, Mama Ngina Girls High school head Mwanahamisi Omar shares that the school has no library at the moment. She attributes the situation to lack of space within the institution to set up a library.

“Maybe if we were to move to a bigger location then it would be possible to have a real library,” said Omar

Worldreader, an international nonprofit that provides vulnerable learners with digital reading solutions, acknowledgesthe existing gaps in the Kenyan schools libraries, and calls for concerted efforts to improve the status of the libraries.

The organisation agrees that most Kenyan school libraries are not properly equipped to serve the intended purpose of promoting a reading culture and enhancing academic performance.

“Kenyan schools rely on libraries to cultivate and nurture the culture of reading. Unfortunately, many school libraries are not well equipped to promote this practice. Many schools do not have libraries,  let alone the books to read. Oftentimes where reading space has been identified, the available books are outdated and in need of repair” says Joan Mwachi-Amolo, Worldreader East Africa Regional Director.

Notably, she says nurturing a reading under the school libraries has failed to thrive because the institutions lack staff with requisite skills to run the facilities.

Additional reporting by Jasmine Atieno

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