Swazi Primary School Eagerly Awaits Library
When Constance Groenich, Principal of Zwide Primary School in Swaziland, told Dudley Butts that her school needed a library, he quickly agreed to help. After retiring as a school administrator, Dudley began volunteering in Swaziland and discovered it is a country of contrasts.
Although he describes Swaziland as a “best kept secret,” a beautiful country with wonderful people, he also recognizes it is a country with great poverty. More than 70% of the people live on less than $1.25 a day. And more than 26% of the population has been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, the highest rate in the world.
Both the poverty and the incidence of HIV/AIDS have put a strain on the schools. The government has few resources to provide books or study materials. There are more orphans and vulnerable children because of HIV/AIDS, and few can afford to pay the school fees.
Dudley found that the Zwide school needed financial support from the community, but the community could not provide it. When he visited the school, he found that it was “in need of a lot of TLC,” both in terms of repairs to the physical plant and books. I didn’t see a single book besides textbooks,” he said. “For that reason, all the learning was teacher-centered, that is, lectures. More activity-based learning would help to engage students.”
Principal Groenich wanted a library to improve literacy, so she contacted Fundza, ALP’s partner in Swaziland, to apply for an ALP library. The school of 300 students is located in a rural area “far away from town libraries” as the principal wrote in her application. “We lack a lot of resources, especially reading books, and there’s a need for a variety of books to accommodate all the grades, from 1-7.”
Zwide’s teachers are enthusiastic but feel hampered by the lack of the support from the government and the community. They are discouraged about their ability to improve test scores without books. The principal believes that the library and resulting literacy will be the basis of a school improvement program. “Your help will go beyond enlightening the younger generation's future but it will also enrich the community and simplify the educator's work of creating a better nation,” as Kwanele Masuku, a math teacher at the school, wrote in a letter accompanying the application.
After the application was approved, Dudley worked with his 14-year-old grandson and some golfing buddies in Minnesota to collect 1500 books. Those books were shipped March 15 and will arrive in Swaziland in late June.
It won’t be long before Zwide students have more than textbooks to learn about the world.