African Great Lakes 

Children’s Peace Libraries of Rwanda During Covid-19

Libraries Team/David Bucura AGLI Coordinator

Image taken before Covid-19 at Peace Library

We are facing unprecedented times. It is important we stay home and respect the lockdown. The effects of Covid-19 and the resultant lockdowns have had drastic effects on the Children’s Peace Libraries and TLC team.

As you know, the Transformational Leadership Center has five children’s peace libraries located in different districts: Kicukiro, Gicumbi, Rubavu and Musanze. Just before the Covid-19 outbreak, TLC opened two more new libraries. The TLC team and the librarians had planned activities for this past month, but the activities were not carried out due to Covid-19.

Our libraries focus on the children, teachers and parents. During this time, Coronavirus presents a big challenge for the libraries. Many of the activities we were supposed to do were stopped; children can longer go outside or leave their families, and everyone is staying home.

Before the virus outbreak, the plan was for the librarians Francine Muhawenima (Libraries Coordinator) and Pascal MCC SALTer or Volunteer) to visit the two new libraries and help the new librarians to learn some strategies for working in the library. In Gicumbi, we had planned to introduce the new labyrinth peace program to the schools over the last couple months.

TLC recently started a partnership with the Kigali public Library in Kacyiru. The plan was to meet again with the leaders of the library this last month discussing how the Kigali Public Library could train our librarians and work with us in different activities and programs, as well as how libraries  can get books from the Kigali Library.

In Rubavu, it was planned to meet with the students trained in peer mediation at G.S Nyamirango in Kanzenze Sector to create a peace club at that school last month.

Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus outbreak, none of these planned events were able to take place. TLC has to follow the measures put in place to stop the spread of the Coronavirus, but most importantly, we value the health of our staff and of the children and other participants who would normally benefit from our libraries and programs.

All the activities planned were stopped, but we have great hope that this pandemic will end very soon in Rwanda and all over the world: we are looking forward to resuming working with the children as before. Government measures have also recently changed so we will be reopening libraries where we can in a limited capacity.

Challenges: 

Working from home is not easy. It can be hard for staff to focus while at home; and communication with parents and children is more difficult.

Not having an online library in Kigali is also a big challenge. If we had one, the children would be able to continue reading the books even though they are staying home. Some parents were asking if our books are online.

 Adjustments due to COVID-19 

With this lockdown, we are still working from our homes to prepare the activities we will do when this disease stops. Since everyone is working from home via technology, and due to the many parents asking how they can reach the books, we are finding new ways to create an online library which will help in the future for children at home. We hope when Covid-9 ends to have online libraries for help with more than just quarantine.

As each year we do an article about children’s peace library and reading, we are trying to write an article on peace libraries and Covid-19 which will be put on our website after it is finished. Our librarians are collecting information from kids and parents at home through phone calls. Some librarians closer to the libraries are still going to the libraries to clean and to arrange books. We also are in communication with some parents who borrowed books before Coronavirus and they give us testimony on how the books are helping their kids during these times. This needs a lot of communication for follow up and talking with the parents to figure out exactly which children have specifically which books.

After Covid-19, we will need face masks and gloves for librarians because the Rwandan government has made wearing masks mandatory.

Having clean water and soap for hand washing is also mandatory. At the Kigali library we have a tank of water and we will need another one in Gicumbi, and small water tanks at other libraries.

With recently announced changes to government counter virus measures and a relaxation of lockdown rules, we hope to open libraries soon so that parents may come visit the libraries to borrow books for their children to read. Since schools are staying closed for now, this will help children with their education and give them something to do while they stay at home, and hopefully make parents’ jobs easier as well.

After Covid-19, librarians will need more training to learn how to adjust to the impact and new changes from Covid-19. They will learn how to cope with the new system of working in the libraries like social distancing, how to clean books, and other methods to avoid spreading the virus. We will comply with all the strategies recommended by the government once schools open, and will find ways to receive kids in the libraries.

Thanks for your support, and stay healthy,

Libraries Team/David Bucura AGLI Coordinator