For a country that is literally bursting forth into the knowledge-driven stage of development, hubs from which such a surge can be enhanced are essential. Thus, more public libraries across Rwanda are vital.
This claim is based on the conviction that the common good of a given society can be best served when its members, in addition to being collectively virtuous, are intellectually adept.
The goal here, rather than to sideline what can fairly be called the success of past illiterate generations, is to emphasie the fact that investing in and cultivating literacy only offers long-term benefits.
And for a land-locked nation like Rwanda, her citizen’s intellect is wealth; her competence among the larger international community depends upon it.
Rwanda’s growth, thus far, can be attributed to her courageous leadership. Rwanda’s is a government which decidedly and determinedly embraced past losses and continues to pursue a clearly-envisioned future.
But of course, even the best leadership could not possibly build any nation on its own. It takes a nation to build one.
How then can a small, land-locked country like Rwanda, one that was home to a 70 per cent illiterate population, majority being youth, 20 years ago, be empowered?
How effectively has she journeyed right up from the darkness of war and poverty into the light of promise and prominence? The answer to these questions, I believe, is directly linked to the role of education which, fundamentally, is literacy.
Rwanda’s post-genocide leadership did not fail to recognise this pressing need countrywide. It saw the necessity of an informed rather than ignorant youth–one capable of thinking critically and productively.
Naturally, they embarked on a far-reaching campaign to put all the nation’s children through every level of school, which initiative is still alive to date. Fortunately, institutions of learning like this are not the end of the story. Beyond attending class, completing academic assignments, and being present for scheduled examinations, there lies a gap.
In Rwanda, like in a number of African nations, this gap represents what is perhaps the most inducing platform for intellectual advancement.
This is exactly where libraries are key. A library is a runway on which our minds are allowed to escalate and fly into the heights of wonder. A space neither confined by rules nor governed by redundancy because there is always another piece of information to learn.
Libraries allow us to explore ideas, interact with authors and, importantly, to dare formulating our own questions.
This stimulates young minds, enabling them to think on their own rather than merely conform.
It also serves to boost intellectual confidence rather than choke it. The result of expanded access to public libraries is an upward spiral, in the very least.
The outcomes: people develop the capacity to own their knowledge; people get trained to create informed and logical ideas towards personal and communal development; people become apt to lead and further impact their nation’s growth.
For these reasons, investment in public libraries is directly proportional to propelling the country forward.
The Hewitt Library, Gahini, (in Kayonza District) is one such response to help close this gap between learning in school and delivering results of what was learned. The library’s founders backed the cause of literacy in Rwanda by establishing one of the first two operational public libraries in the country.
They did so out of sheer belief in the potential of the young minds of Rwanda.
The Hewitt Library is now an official partner with the Rwanda National Library (located in Kacyiru, Kigali) in empowering Rwandans with mental resources, promoting a culture of reading and writing that would impact national development, and finally, imparting the discipline of learning and meaningful conversation nationwide.