Every other year, African Library Project chooses one of the seven countries in which we create libraries to host an African Partners Summit, where partners from across the globe come together to share best practices, train teacher-librarians, and exchange ideas to develop libraries and promote literacy in Africa.
The 2020 Summit was hosted in Lesotho, the country where ALP’s mission began. It was only fitting that a Summit held in ALP’s birthplace would engender a number of firsts.
For example, this was the first Summit which extended an invitation for other organizations with similar goals, like Books for Lesotho, to attend. One of the main goals of the Summit was to build coalitions between organizations to effect greater change. This was achieved by coordinating efforts to expand access to libraries and literacy services, increasing resources for library development, and engaging government and community leadership to build lasting solutions to promote library development and maintenance.
Some of the organizations represented at this Summit were:
Books for Lesotho
An Australian organization we are in the beginning stages of partnering with. Their mission is to collect and sort books and, over a period of five years, to establish strong libraries in Lesotho schools. B4L supporters also raised money to provide meals for the 100 teacher-librarians in attendance during the full week of the Summit. According to David and Liz Linn, “this was time well spent in meeting others, especially people from Lesotho, to learn that B4L and its partners do not work in Lesotho alone, that we share common objectives and the same problems, and that most of the books that are delivered are welcomed, highly prized and are in the main put to very good use.”
Peace Corps Lesotho
Not only did Peace Corps staff engage in our Summit, nine Peace Corps volunteers actually assisted with another first – the opportunity for participants to personally offload a container of books and help to sort materials for distribution throughout Lesotho.
Rotary Club Lesotho
One of our new Board members, Craig Anderson, represented the Rotary Club, an international service organization devoted to bringing together business and professional leaders to forward peace and humanitarian efforts. Craig represented branches of the Rotary Club coming together to promote African literacy both from his home state of Michigan and Ladybrand, South Africa.
“The Summit provided me an incredible insight into the depth of character and deep commitment of ALP staff, board members, volunteers, and the founder herself. Simply amazing!” Craig said. “Not to mention the overwhelming enthusiasm of the teacher-librarian attendees and their eagerness to promote literacy.”
Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance Lesotho
A branch of the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance, a leadership development program with global reach.
According to Mary Hlalele, a Kellogg Fellow in attendance, the value of the AP Summit was the opportunity for people to come together.
“Bringing the teacher librarians together is a wonderful practical idea: ensuring that they receive some training through a few days’ workshop. This also stood out for me as I witnessed the excitement and enthusiasm that came through for the teacher librarians as they envisaged how they would get libraries set up and used in their own schools. The energy and appreciation of the teachers was palpable and made one envisage the excitement of the entire school body when the books actually arrived in each of the schools.”
Lesotho’s Ministry of Education and Training
MOET facilitated field visits to four libraries during the 2019 summit. During these field visits, participants shared the elements and strategies that have worked for each community. They also engaged with students, teachers, parents, and community members, getting to know their stories on a personal level. MOET also held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of the MOET School Supply Warehouse.
Despite difficulties due to the global pandemic, participants in the Summit felt the event was a huge success. We were able to expand our networks and come together in support of a singular goal – to get books into the hands of African children. Here’s to more firsts, both for ALP and our partner organizations!