• Joel Reyia Kapante

Teaching Modern Library Skills in the Maasai Mara

In our knowledge-driven world, students today need not only libraries but the skills to use them effectively. Joel explains the recent training at Talek Primary School.

by Joel Reyia Kapante


The Kenya Global Partnership for Education (GPE) report has revealed gaps on our education system caused by the pandemic. It shows that close to half of learners did not attain the minimum proficiency in Reading Comprehension. Close to two thirds or 60.87 percent failed in the cloze test. This is based on a World Bank-sponsored evaluation carried out in October by the Kenya National Examinations Council.


"Of concern are the substantial percentages of pupils not attaining minimum proficiency levels in language skills; yet research has shown that coherence in language has a bearing on acquisition of other educational outcomes," read the report.

This paints a grim picture. However, the small Talek community tucked away deep in the heart of the Maasai Mara in Kenya is counting its blessings. In December, 48 families received a home "solar library," with over 700 books provided by OliveSeed and 48 lanterns from OliveSeed and Basecamp Foundation. These solar libraries have been instrumental in recovering lost time. Parents have been empowered to support learning at home.

OliveSeed Executive Director Barb Mackraz commented that this is in line with their aim of promoting a positive and sustained reading culture. She noted that because of prolonged school closures, they stepped in to provide the materials which the pupils so desperately need. "Most parents can’t pay for books as well as other essential supplies that go hand-in-hand with learning," she observed.

Recently, OliveSeed launched another library at Talek Primary School. It was a book bonanza. Apart from the over 2,000 books provided for all ages and levels, this learning center includes a wide a range of games, puzzles, art supplies, laptops with recorded stories, and other recreational study materials. Mrs Mackraz said that the image of the library as a few shelves containing books should be dispelled.

The Talek School Library, launched in February, has already become a hub of learning and creative activity.

Pupils and teachers at Talek Primary were trained on the principles, procedures, and techniques of librarianship. According to Text Book Centre’s Mr Gregory Omondi, this stimulated interest in books besides promoting information literacy. "We are increasingly seeing a shift to an individualized approach to education, which underscores the importance of teaching library skills in schools," said Mr Omondi, who was the trainer.


He said that instruction in library skills shouldn’t be complex but rather simple and fun. This way, the learners not only learn to be competent library users but are positioned to tap its vast resources.

Students at Talek Primary learned how to organize the library and use it as a base for information.

"We taught them the basics of information retrieval and generally how to use the library," said Mr Omondi, adding that this provides a break from the formality of coursework. The Constitution of Kenya 2010 recognizes libraries as vehicles for cultural and national expression. They are termed as "socially committed enablers" for the knowledge-driven economy.

OliveSeed Kenya Director Amos Kipeen added that literacy and education can break the vicious cycle of poverty. "This makes it imperative to promote community-wide information literacy," said Mr Kipeen.


Previously, OliveSeed also developed a library for the nearby Mara Girls Leadership School.


LEARN MORE

Talek Primary School Library: Games & Puzzles Corner (video)

Talek Primary School Library & Learning Center: The 1st 3 Days (video)

Talek Library & Learning Centre, a Gift That Lasts Forever (blog post)

Solar Lanterns & Books Change Lives (blog post)

About the Author

Joel Reyia is a writer, journalist, and economist living the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. A graduate of Kenyatta University in Nairobi, he has served as correspondent for Nation Africa (the daily national newspaper) and is the author of a children's anthology, "Lekuta & the Goats & Other Stories."


Joel's short stories have appeared in Lunaris Review and Itanile Freedom magazines. Two of these were longlisted for the Inaugural Toyin Falola Prize and the Collins Elesiro Literary Prize. His debut novella is due for publication in 2021. Currently, Joel is working as a freelance journalist as well as undertaking conservation education programs in the Maasai Mara.