By Aisha Tamba
The Gambia National Library in Banjul last Tuesday commemorated International Literacy Day.
The library staged a reading, quiz and debating competition for students drawn from various schools as part of activities marking the Day.
Wesley Lower Basic School came out first in the reading competition, with St Therese’s School scooping the debate award, leaving Nusrat SSS to beat Garba Jahumpa SSS in the quiz category.
In the debate competition, the resolution was: lack of reading is the main reason why students fail exam in grade 12.
The director general of the National Library, Mrs Matilda Johnson, said the aim of the event was to exhibit books in the library, and to celebrate and promote a culture of reading among children through competitions and other fun-filled activities.
“In essence we want to advocate and promote the reading culture in our schools and in our communities,” she noted.
To further deepen that culture of reading in our schools, Mrs Johnson said the National Library and Books Aid International UK signed an MoU in March 2018.
“Since then, Book Aid International has sent two 20 foot containers of new books on various subject areas for distribution to Gambian schools, to complement the school curriculum. Schools and community libraries in Greater Banjul Areas are encouraged to request books from National Library to boost their collection,” she said.
Speaking further, Mrs Johnson said: “At the level of The Gambia National Library, we have included other activities to complement the reading, debate, quiz and storytelling initiatives. It is envisaged that the participants would endeavour to use this opportunity to make good use of the libraries in their respective schools.”
The National Assembly member for Banjul North, Ebrima Sillah, encouraged students to visit their local libraries more often, telling them “reading can change your lives”.
International Literacy Day was initiated by Unesco in October 1966, at its 14th general conference. The Day was celebrated first in 1967 with the aim of highlighting the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.
While others believe the Day is an opportunity for governments, civil society and stakeholders to highlight improvements in world literacy rates, and reflect on the world’s remaining literacy challenges.