Maputsoe Community High School was a hive of activity last week as students from around the industrial town of Maputsoe converged on the institution to make use of the National University of Lesotho’s (NUL) Mobile Digital Library.
The library is a unique initiative by the varsity, in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), and seeks to make NUL’s Thomas Mofolo Library accessible to every citizen no-matter his or her location.
Thomas Mofolo Library Access Assistant, Kefeletsoe Makepe, on Wednesday told the Sunday Express: “There are many NUL part-time students spread across the country, so we are just bringing the library closer to these learners for them to do their research and borrow books they might need.
“The initiative is also meant to make library services accessible to people in remote areas of the country. Many people and schools in the rural areas of Lesotho do not have access to libraries and are not able to find information they can use to improve their lives.”
Ms Makepe noted in addition to books and newspapers, the library also had Wi-Fi facilities to enable the students to download information they might need for their studies from the internet. The library is expected to be taken to all districts of the country to ensure everyone benefits, Ms Makepe added.
“We are living in the age of information technology, and such devices are useful in keeping our people informed,” she said.
According to Ms Makepe, the mobile library had since been taken to Teyateyaneng, Kolonyama, Peka and Maputsoe on its current tour, and stays for a week before proceeding to the next destination.
At each of these stops, students and nearby communities get normal library services from the mobile “container” which houses the library.
“People are allowed to borrow books and use them here on site. Nobody is allowed to take the books home because we cannot guarantee their safety,” Ms Makepe said.
On Wi-Fi, Ms Makepe said the facility is provided free of charge.
“Internet has made learning easier and more fun the world over, including Lesotho. We provide it free of charge so that the students can Google and download whatever study material they might need,” Ms Makepe said.
During its stay at Maputsoe Community High School, the mobile library was visited by students from various high schools in Maputsoe. One of those students was Litšitso Khetsi of Maputsoe English Medium, who had nothing but praise for the initiative.
“I have managed to find great books and resources that are relevant to my schoolwork,” Khetsi said. “For instance, I always struggled to get around our set-book, Julius Caesar, but the notes I found in this library have been very useful to me,” she said while showing off a copy of Hamlet, which she said was one of her favourite works by English writer, William Shakespeare.
Another student, Palesa Matjeka of St Boniface High School, told the Sunday Express that she enjoyed surfing the internet to find information on chemistry and physics. “I came here looking for some information on the chemistry of water, and I was able to find what I was looking for,” Matjeka said.
The 17-year-old further noted she was able to download crucial material on some physics themes.
“I am glad I came here. It is not always easy to access this kind of information, which is why I am extremely happy the university came up with this mobile library strategy,” Matjeka added.
Meanwhile, Wi-Fi access was the most popular service for the students as they could be seen huddled over their smartphones and laptops browsing the internet.
One of the students, Likeleli Molaoli of St Boniface High School, described the net as the easiest way to find information.
“I managed to get a lot of information about the alleviation of poverty in Lesotho, just from my mobile phone, can you imagine!” she said.
One of the teachers who was also on site on Wednesday, Tšeliso Makofo, said the library was particularly important because it did not only give students the opportunity to interact but also provided them with a unique learning experience.
“Some of these students do not have libraries in their schools so coming here gives them a better understanding of how to use a library and interact with their peers. It is actually a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.
“In the long run, this will instil a culture of reading among young people, and it is only when the youths have this passion for reading that they can make better and informed decisions about their lives,” Mr Makofo said.
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