UCU alumnus launches volunteer effort to improve Uganda’s literacy
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2019/11/ucu-alumnus-launches-volunteer-effort-to-improve-ugandas-literacy/
By Caleb Ndishakiye Niringiyimana
Your passion could be the only tool you’ve got to positively change the world around you.
That’s the short answer to what’s behind the non-profit I started. As a book lover and a Uganda Christian University (UCU) alumnus from the Department of Literature, Education and Arts faculty, I am the founder and director of Glow-Lit Ltd (Glow-Literature Limited) under the theme of an “Africa that reads.”
Glow-Lit grew from a conviction that a strong reading culture among Africans is the least-trodden avenue to solving the many socio-economic bottlenecks we face.
Despite the nearly 20% poverty rate (not a nice statistic) of Uganda, our education, hygiene and sanitation and access to services are appalling. With about 100 registered public libraries and only about 50 of them fully operative, and about 71% of people above age 10 able to read, and about 90% of the ones reading doing it for grades in school, it is easy to see the co-relation between the state of social amenities and self-empowerment through reading.
A book has power, in part, because it is written with emotions, convictions and/or facts from the author. Therefore, an innate light can be found within the pages of a book, and, when people read the book, they are impacted in two ways: First, sharing the light from the book; and second, being charged (lit or enlightened) to do something with the knowledge which is the symptom of the self-empowerment, and transforms the conditions of life, even to a community level. Hence the name, Glow-Lit (do something for yourself and community with the light you have).
At Glow-lit, we believe that book lovers are the best agents to make more book lovers and world changers. Therefore, we gather book lovers and take them to schools and communities where people are gathered. The locations are school buildings, community libraries, corporate companies, homes, and coffee/tea shops. We pair people who love to read with individuals wanting to improve their reading. We read and grow together at a schedule convenient for each community/entity that hosts us. The standards of skill and passion enable growth into a mentor, who is assigned new entrants in our reading track and the cycle continues. Therefore, you can glow when lit, and growing your love for books can light you.
We also ensure there is accessibility to books. The majority of African families and schools cannot afford a book, and government funding priority is given to academic pamphlets instead of books. We work with entities that donate books, and we identify the need, which is predominantly, private primary schools, some public primary schools, private secondary schools and of course communities where residents almost have nothing to rely on for reading once they are not in school.
Our focus is on developing the reading culture among our children and youth, especially in the formative years. This is because the values learned as a young child have a greater possibility of lasting and being lived with ease compared to ones taught in later years of development. This though, does not eliminate adults who have the need and will to jump on the literacy train.
We also acknowledge the wanting state of scholarship on African Literary Works. We envision an online platform where professors and researchers avail their analysis of African literary works to other scholars in order for us to “Take African literature to the world.” We would love to have students of African literature hear from those who went ahead of them about these works, and we as Glow-Lit are ready to be the medium.
We operate only in Ugandan schools and communities with hope to serve Africa entirely, someday. More than reading, we mentor youth and facilitate character formation using books. That is why we read both fiction and nonfiction alternatingly. Fiction is aimed chiefly to reading for entertainment; yet still the message, characterization and the style help refine our youths. Nonfiction, which is usually youth livelihood, leadership and many relevant subjects are organized in a workshop setting with facilitators. Testimonies from students keep us moving. We work so closely with school reading clubs focusing them to intentional reading. Once we come in, we make reading so fashionable, that these clubs grow tremendously, bringing new book lovers, almost doubling the initial numbers in less than a year’s operation. Registering such impact is a huge milestone and signal to how much more can be achieved.
Our program, “The home Book Drive,” (our most loved program) which runs during school holidays, focuses on engaging children in reading from their homes. We reduce their TV time by taking books and inviting children from the neighborhood to join in reading, playing and snacking.
Our team of 24 is comprised of professional and student volunteers, 100% driven by the passion to give.
Glo-Lit needs book donations and reading volunteers. To learn more, go to www.glow-lit.org.
For more of these stories and experiences by and about Uganda Christian University (UCU) students and graduates, visit https://www.ugandapartners.org. If you would like to support UCU, contact Mark Bartels, Executive Director, UCU Partners, at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to https://www.ugandapartners.org/donate/Also follow and like our Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn pages.