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SPOTLIGHT: How UNIJOS students founded community libraries to keep children away from social vices

SPOTLIGHT: How UNIJOS students founded community libraries to keep children away from social vices
July 14
07:45 2021

BY JOHNSTONE KPILAAKAA

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While the world was battling with COVID-19 pandemic and cities were on lockdown, two undergraduates in Jos, Plateau state capital, used the opportunity to crowdfund through social media and from friends to build community libraries and keep idle youths off the streets. JOHNSTONE KPILAAKAA writes about the undergraduates who took it upon themselves to curb the growing crime rate in their communities through books.

Like every other year, 2020 was welcomed with pomp and ceremony, and people looked forward to a promising year. But that was not to be. The novel coronavirus became the new normal and it threw the world into a state of disarray. Nations battled it; families struggled to survive it. Cities were shut down and the global economy crumbled. People were out of jobs and developing nations were worst hit by biting hunger.

In some communities in Plateau state, hundreds of idle youths were on the streets, and consequently found solace in opioid and crime. To address the situation, some undergraduates of the University of Jos (UNIJOS) felt there was a strong need to keep the restive youths positively engaged and active while the restriction on movement across the state lasted.

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On a sunny Thursday afternoon when TheCable visited Tudun Wada, a densely populated community that sits on hills and rocks in northern Jos, 11-year-old Reuben Tsentor walked into the community library with his bare feet. He walked past two children that were lying on the floor trying to figure out the answers to their assignments. After exchanging pleasantries with Daniella Minaan, founder of the community library, Reuben went to one of the shelves with books for primary, secondary and tertiary institutions to begin the business of the day.

Rueben holding the book that inspires him to become an astronaut

“Do you see this boy?” Minaan, a final year student of linguistics at UNIJOS, whispered. “He is one of our consistent readers, he comes here every day after his classes.”

Reuben, the first child of his family, lives directly opposite the library. The JSS 1 student at Royal Academy, Tudun Wada, aspires to be an astronaut. Like Reuben, many pupils and youths in the area have turned the new library into their nest. They perch on its benches after school and during weekends.

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“Since I do not have personal textbooks, I come here to get books so that I can do my assignments,” Reuben said.

“I became interested in becoming an astronaut in Primary 4, when we were taught about the solar system, I did not have access to books to learn more until the library was established. I came across a book, ‘The Universe’. It has really helped me to learn more.”

WITH N45K, A COMMUNITY LIBRARY WAS BIRTHED

Tundun Wada has been troubled with insecurity while social vices and the pandemic worsened the situation. These challenges inspired the establishment of the community library in December 2020 with the primary objective of using education as a tool to teach the children good values.

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According to Minaan, during the lockdown, some of the youths in the community would climb the rocks to smoke and drink alcoholic substances.

“Even those that were not involved initially, later became part of it. The increase in these vices inspired the establishment of the library. I shared the idea with my friends and mentors and they bought the idea,” Minaan said.

“We started sourcing books through words of mouth and social media campaigns. From the community, people volunteered for the project; we contributed money to get books and space.”

“We realised N45,000 from the social media campaign and contributions from individuals that volunteered to work on the team. Out of this fund, we rented the space for a year and half with N27,000.”

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To grow the library, Minaan says she hopes to get funds to purchase more books, computers, install indoor and outdoor games facilities to attract more youths.

Kids reading on the floor of the TWCL

I TURNED MY LATE DAD’S LIBRARY TO A COMMUNITY LIBRARY’

At Kunyi Katseh, Haske community located at the boundary between Jos north and Jos east, Ritmwa Bewarang, a final year student of quantity survey at UNIJOS, founded the 50 Pages Library. Bewarang said she converted her late father’s personal library to a community library to address the social ills in her community, just like Minaan did in Tudun Wada.

Until October 17, 2020 when the library was established, Kunyi Katseh didn’t have a public library. Bewarang sourced for funds from her friends and family — and she was able to raise about N70,000 which she used to furnish the library and host the opening ceremony.

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“My dad passed away five years ago. He left a lot of books and no one was using them; his library was abandoned. So, I just felt that instead of leaving my dad’s library abandoned, I can develop it and encourage young people to come and spend time here,” Bewarang said as she reclined in her late dad’s reading chair, with the maps of Africa and the world slightly above her head.

Bewarang inside 50 Pages Library

“Since my mother and my siblings were okay with the idea, starting the library was not so difficult, because the library space and books were already available.”

The smell of old books — from theology to sociology, nursing, leadership, history, personal and community development, business, law, and agriculture — filled the air. On the floor, just beside an old wooden shelf, was a portrait of Mother Teresa with the quote “reaching beyond yourself”.

According to Bewarang, a minimum of fifteen readers from primary, secondary, tertiary institutions and even professionals use the library on a daily basis.

Sitting on one of the old wooden desks in the reading area was Joshua James, a 500-level student of medicine and surgery at UNIJOS. Aside from being a consistent library user, he is one of the volunteers who take turns to assist readers when they come to use the library.

“Even though the library space might not look so big, the books are very useful. There are a lot of medical books I came across here and they play a major role in my studies especially when I am preparing for exams,” James said.

Reuben Tsentor reading inside the library

Mai Angwa Ajiji, head of the Kunyi Katseh community, told TheCable that since the schools in the community do not have library facilities,  students use the 50 Pages Library for studying and research.

“As a community, we are one hundred percent in support of the library because of how effective the response has been in a short while. Our children do not stay idle anymore to grow into becoming part of the social ills happening here. I often see them going to the library to spend time,” Ajiji said.

Mercy Dayil, a librarian, said community libraries are key to learning, as they give people the opportunity to explore, research, experience new ideas, while also providing a place for gathering.

“The rise in community libraries in Plateau has been nothing short of impressive and commendable,” Dayil said.

“Every time I hear about a new community library or more developments in certain community libraries, it gives me so much Joy. Reading is important, education is important and creating avenues for learning is something I will always recommend and support, even though it doesn’t come without its challenges.”

Simon Mwanti, director of Plateau State Library Board, described the rise of community libraries in the state as an interesting model.

With meagre resources, these young undergraduates ensured that the library initiative went beyond an idea to reality. For them, adding an e-library to the facilities will give the initiative more traction and impact.


This report is supported by OSIWA, under the Campus Civic Media Campaign Project of Cable Foundation, in partnership with TheCable

1 Comment

  1. Kefas Lungu
    Kefas Lungu July 15, 00:29

    more on the eLibrary please.
    wonderful work!

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