While visiting the Gerezani Primary School, a door of opportunity was set before us. It was a creaky old door, with peeling paint that led to a room filled with what looked like decades of dust. “Someday, the teachers dream that this room will be a library” the Headmistress told us. Sara and I looked at each other and we knew at that moment that we could help make their dream come true. We were going to build them a library!
Someday, the teachers dream that this room will be a library
We went to the United States Embassy in Dar es Salaam to share our thoughts about the importance of English language children’s books to help improve English proficiency in primary schools and our vision of building libraries in schools in Tanzania.
We spent the next week working with a university student studying technology. Seva drove us all over town as we gathered construction materials to help transform the abandoned room into a bright and colorful library for the 400 students at the GPS school. By the end of the week, we had installed an internet router capable of handling 15 devices, and left them with a small collection of books, promising to return to raise money and collect books so they could realize their dream to have a real library.
Finding construction materials in Tanzania is a lot harder than it is here in the United States. We had to go to three different paint stores, just to get paint. The first store had the paint, but they didn’t have the dyes to color the paint. The next store had the color, but not the machine to shake the cans to mix it. Finally, we found a store that had the paint, the color and a mixer! We hired a carpenter to build a bookcase in a recess in the wall, and learned how to negotiate at a rug dealer. Our search for bean bag chairs ended unsuccessfully, unfortunately, so we will be buying some here in the United States and adding them to the container of books we ship next summer. A library simply must have a cozy place to curl up with a good book!
Over the next year, friends and our local community volunteered to help collect books at the Leander ISD book fairs and we collected 800 books to help the students improve their English.
We found a home for some donated audio cassette players and books that will help students to improve pronunciation skills.
With 3 iPads connected to the internet, students have access to thousands of books, and we downloaded educational apps to make learning English more engaging.
After our library was introduced, student performance in English had improved significantly at the school, with scores rising from 2.0 in English proficiency to 2.99 a year later. Our library is motivating and encouraging students to learn! We now want to take our successful model to additional schools in Tanzania, and continue to support the students at GPS.