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Sharing books across the country - Interview with Rotarian Temba Banda
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
July 05, 2011

Read Inside/Out with Temba Banda

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Thembar BandaTemba Banda is the Vice President of the Harare Distribution Committee, which distributes books to schools and tertiary institutions in northern Zimbabwe for Book Aid International. Book Aid International is dedicated to increasing access to books and other reading materials to support literacy education and development across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Can you tell me a little bit about Book Aid International and their work in Zimbabwe?
Book Aid International was formed by Lady Ranfurly, the wife of the fourth Earl of Knox who was stationed in the Bahamas in the fifties. While she was there she was moved by the plight of the people and through her friends in the UK she started sourcing books that people didn't need or want. Here in Zimbabwe, what was then known as Ranfurly Library Services started bringing in books in the sixties. Even at the height of the liberation war we still received books. In 1994 Ranfurly Library Services rebranded and became Book Aid International.

How did you get involved with Book Aid International?
Sometime in 2007, I was reading the South African Sunday times. I read a story about how Doris Lessing had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Along with the certificate and shiny medal she also received ten million Swedish Krona, which at that time was equivalent to 1.3 million US dollars. In her wisdom she pledged the entire prize to the provision of books for secondary schools in Zimbabwe. She was very much in touch with the situation on the ground, the dearth of reading material and the flight of teachers. That was her way of giving back to the country in which she grew up. I figured, as a Rotarian, it was a worthy cause, and I wanted to do my part and took up the challenge. Listen

My brother lost the paper that had the original story so I had to trawl through the Internet, and thanks to Google I got a hold of Harper Collins who referred me to Book Aid International. I eventually met with the president of the Harare Distribution committee, Jasper Maenzanise. Guess what, these guys were oblivious that such a donation had been made. At the time there had been a lot of power outages and Yeukai Chimuka, who was then Vice President and the communications person, had a huge backlog of emails. After that meeting I began to volunteer my time with Book Aid. With time I became the rotary liaison for the Harare Distribution Committee.

What schools are you involved with?
All schools that are in need of textbook and novel support. We don't invite Trust schools, they tend to be better off. We are looking at council schools and government primary and secondary schools, vocational colleges, teacher training and nurse training institutions polytechnics. Once in a while we also get non-governmental organisations especially those that are involved in advocacy with livelihoods programmes or HIV/AIDS awareness. We also have a good working relationship with Zimbabwe Cricket. We are in the process of setting up a reference centre or Centre of Excellence where their coaches and all the people involved in their outreach programmes can use those books. As we speak we have a small consignment that is due to be handed over.

What are the challenges you face in your work and what is the most rewarding part of it for you?
For starters we don't have a budget, we are all volunteers, and the University of Zimbabwe, kindly gives us our warehousing space. It means I have to do a lot in my spare time. Sometimes the containers arrive at very odd hours. We have a Rotaract Club here at the UZ, and I've gotten a lot of help from the Rotary Clubs of Harare west and Harare central. What make the work rewarding is the impact that we've made. We give a lot of books to schools of nursing and they have openly admitted that thanks to our books their pass rates have improved tremendously. For example Gutu Mission School of Nursing, before they received a donation of books from us, the lecturer would travel all the way to Harare to photocopy books for use in her lectures. Now, thanks to this programme, she has a wide array of books covering a broad number of subjects. With many nursing schools and the poor allocation of funds towards educating health professionals, most of their books are antiquated, so clinical management of fairly new diseases are not adequately covered. I think, especially in the health sector, that's where you can measure the impact that these books have had. Listen

What is the relationship between Rotary and Book Aid?
The two are interlinked. Rotary does a lot of literacy and education programmes; in fact it is one of the three key priority areas for Rotary. The good thing is that since the Harare Distribution Committee doesn't have a budget and the Rotarians have the means of taking the books to institutions, we can work together at grassroots level and identify the areas that need help. For example the Rotary Club of Harare CBD will be transporting books to a number of training institutions in Chipinge. Ordinarily it would be a logistical challenge to expect these schools to send a representative to select books and take them back. I think it's a very smart partnership. Listen

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