Tuesday, December 7, 2010

SCECSAL 2010 Official Opening and Report on the Afternoon session

Monday the 6th of December 2010, marked the first day of the much awaited SCECSAL XIX Conference 2010, hosted by the Botswana Library Association at the University of Botswana in the country's capital city Gaborone. The theme of the Conference is "Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance through Effective Information and Knowledge Management".The event was graced by delegates Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi and Countries beyond, Southern, East and Central Africa such as Nigeria, the United States of America, Italy and the United Kingdom. The  Official opening ceremony started with a welcome message from the Botswana Library Association President Ms Kgomotso Radijeng followed by the official opening speach by the Minister of Youth Sports and Culture of the Republic of Botswana. The guests were then entertained by some Tswana Traditional songs which was followed by the Keynote Address Presented by TsapeloNdhovu, the Director of MISA.

Morning Session

After the official opening the event moved to the main hall where all the presentation of papers took place. The Morning session was chaired by Professor Patrick Ngulube of the University of South Africa, Department of Information Sciences. The theme for the day was "Freedom of access to information, censorship to information, Internet monitoring and good governance and Information privacy and confidentiality". The session saw presentations of four papers titled:
- Public Libraries in their communities: a catalyst for change by Monika Segbert from Italy;
- The Role of Internet in the Provision of Information for National Devlopment and Political Education: a Hypelink Analysis of SADC E-government Websites by DR Akakandelwa of the University of Zambia;
- Access to knowledge and Information in Botswana: A Development and Gender issue within the Adult Education Context by Bobana Badisang from Botswana; and
- The Level of Utilization of Government Publications in Some School Libraries in Gaborone, Botswana.

Afternoon Session
The afternoon session was chaired by Professor Stephen Mutula on the University of Botswana and it saw the breaking away of groups into two parallel sessions. The theme for the first group was, "Libraries, democratization process and promotion of sustainable good governance in Africa" and that of the second group was, "Libraries, Human Rights, socio-economic, good governace and Democracy".

The first paper in parallel session for Group A with the theme Libraries, democratization process and promotion of sustainable good governance in Africa" was presented by Ms. G T Kabatangare of Uganda and the paper was titled, " Contributions of Makerere University Library towards Democracy and Good Governance in Uganda since 1996".

Ms Kabatangure first highlighted on the general perspective of IFLA that libraries play an essential role in the functioning of a Democratic Society. She then went to give a general background Makerere University and  highlighted the main role of Makerere University is ensuring that the library remain effective to the University curricular through initiating innovative ways, planing and implementation of activities that enable the Library to achieve its  objectives The paper went on to mention the various resources that are found in the Makerere University Library which include databases, vitual resources, hard copy books etc.

The main commitment of the University towards democracy is seen through facilitating access to variety of materials on democracy and good governance and the key achievements towards this goal is seen through some of the actions listed below:
-    Automation to enhance access to a wide range of information
-    Placing of reading materials on different sub-sections to ensure users within those sections have access to the materials
-    Computerization which has eased access to resources from different locations
In trying to achieve its commitment of facilitating access to a wide variety of materials the Makerere Library is facing the following challenges
-          Inadequate funding
-          Low internet bandwidth
-          Growing student numbers; and 
-          Limitation of resources

These problems can be addressed through the following solutions:
-          Increased funding
-          Strengthening network capabilities
-          Lobbying for increase in resources

The second paper for the afternoon session in the parallel group session was presented by Mathew Moyo  of Fort Haire University in South Africa and the paper was titled, "Libraries democratization process and promotion of sustainable good governance in Africa; a case study of Kenya and Zimbabwe'.  Zimbabwe and Kenya are used in the study basing on the fact that they faced similar polical challenges that led to the formation of unity governments in both countries.

The paper first highlights the Librarian's role of provision of information to the users, and then went forward to give a background of libraries in both countries. In Kenya Libraries where started in the 18th Centurion and the Library Services Act was enacted in Parliament in 1965 and in Zimbabwe Libraries where initiated before independence and the Library and documentation services Act was enacted in Parliament in 1985. The paper lists the following as roles of Libraries in democracy:
      -          Informing people
-          Provision of  access to  wide range of information, freedom to access of information
-          Collecting, storing and disseminating relevant information
The paper state that Libraries can acquit themselves to provide information to the community by
placing themselves in advance to gain the confidence of the elctorate
Problems faced by Libraries in Kenya and Zimbabwe include
-          Insufficient Funding
-          High staff turnover caused to the economic hardship
 The third paper of the session was presented by Ms Margaret Boffor Awuah of Botswana and it was titled, "School Libraries in Africa" The paper speaks about the initiative of the African Network for School Libraries, an organisation aimed at the provision of Libraries in every Primary School Library in Africa. The vision for the Network is ALIS:
      A     -              A
L      -              Library
I       -              In every
S      -              School
The Methodology which the Network is adapting to ensure that its vision is met is the lobying of a change in the curriculum of teachers so it include aspects of running a library, thus equiping them to be Teacher/librarians so the concept of library is introduced to Children at grassroots levels.
 The Network's main objective is to build expertise in school libraries
The network has built a facebook page inorder to reach out to the different stakeholders and is currently looking for funding.

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