Community Library and Resource Centres
Country Profile: Nepal
Nepali (regional languages: Maithili, Nepal Bhasa, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Gurung, Tamang, Magar, Awadhi, Sherpa, Kiranti, Limbu, etc.)
|Poverty (Population living on less than 1.25 USD per day)|
|Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP|
|Primary School Net Enrolment/Attendance|
|Total Youth Literacy Rate (15-24 years)|
|Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2005)|
|Programme Title||Community Library and Resource Centres (CLRC) Programme|
|Implementing Organization||READ Nepal (international NGO)|
|Language of Instruction||Nepali and other local languages (bilingual)|
|Programme Partners||READ Global; The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Pew Charitable Trusts; Myths and Mountains; The Nepal Library Foundation (NLF); Rotary International; International Reading Association; One World South Asia, Pacific Asia Travel Association, UNESCO, German Embassy, Norwegian Association for Adult Learning, Town Development Fund, Government of Nepal|
|Date of Inception||1991 –|
Context and background
Despite Nepal’s developmental progress in recent years, socioeconomic inequalities continue to plague the country. About a third of its population, mostly from isolated rural and semi-urban communities, live below the poverty line with limited access to basic socioeconomic support and opportunities. The combined effects of poverty, geographic remoteness and general lack of development also prevents many rural people, particularly women, ethnic minorities (Janajatis) and low caste groups (Dalits), from accessing quality education. The provision of quality education to the poor majority is further impeded by a paucity of educational resources, poor infrastructure and a lack of qualified teachers. As a result, about 25% of the total population (or 8 million people) are illiterate. Adult illiteracy rates (51% as of 1995 to 2005) are particularly alarming. In addition, gender inequity is profound with only one-quarter of all women being minimally literate, a phenomenon which exacerbates rural poverty and underdevelopment. In response to these extreme challenges, Rural Education and Development (READ) Nepal – a pioneering non-governmental organisation for community development through community library and resource centres – instituted the Community Library and Resource Centres (CLRC) programme in an effort to empower socially disadvantaged and marginalised rural communities through educational and developmental projects.
The Community Library and Resource Centres (CLRC) programme
The CLRC programme was officially launched in 1991, the very year that READ-Nepal was officially established in the country. Under the programme, READ-Nepal with financial and technical assistance from its parent-body, READ-Global, the government of Nepal (through the District Education Office) and various international NGOs (see above) establishes community libraries and resource centres (CLRCs) in partnership with local communities. The CLRCs are used as focal points for the implementation of community-based educational and developmental programmes. In addition, READ-Nepal also equips the centres with buildings, learning materials (books, computers, children’s toys, newspapers and magazines) and furniture. It also trains the library management committees (LMCs) who are entrusted with the responsibility of managing the CLRCs and for coordinating the implementation of centre-based educational and developmental activities. READ-Nepal also assists the LMCs and community members to identify, initiate/establish and manage income generating projects which generate money for family needs and for the sustenance of the CLRCs.
Jhuwani Community Library
To date, READ-Nepal has established 48 self-sustaining and community-managed CLRCs and 13 outreach projects in 37 districts across the entire country, some of which are equipped with over 9,000 books (minimum 3,000) and various other learning materials and resources. In addition to functioning as warehouses of learning resources and information, the CLRCs also act as focal points for educational training activities for community members of all ages. As indicated in the pictures below, READ-Nepal provides early childhood education (ECE) and basic literacy programmes for children as well as basic literacy and life skills training to youths and adults. READ’s life skills programme for youths and adults places greater emphasis on subjects or themes that are central for both individual and community developmental needs. These include:
- health (HIV/AIDS awareness; reproductive health; nutrition and sanitation)
- civic education (human rights, conflict resolution and management; peace building; gender and racial relations)
- environmental management and conservation
- income generation or livelihood development including agricultural training (bee keeping; fish production, crop and animal production) and craft, soap, furniture and candle making.
READ-supported CLRCs are also playing a leading role in empowering women in the community. CLRCs provide space for women to interact and discuss issues. They also conduct programmes according to their particular needs, for example, micro finance, skill development training, leadership building training and computer training.
Aims and Objectives
The READ programme endeavours to:
- combat illiteracy in the country particularly among the socially disadvantaged and marginalised rural and peri-urban communities
- provide communities with contextually relevant reading and learning materials or information in order to promote lifelong learning, social development and empowerment
- nurture an intergenerational reading or learning culture through the establishment of self-sustaining community library and resource centres
- promote rural economic development by creating basic educational and vocational skills training opportunities for all and supporting sustainable income generation activities
- enable socially disadvantaged communities to participate more effectively in community and national developmental processes
- combat rural poverty
- promote social cohesion.
Overall, the programme endeavours to diminish the isolation, vulnerability, and marginality in which many Nepalese citizens live.
Programme implementation: Approaches and methodologies
READ-Nepal harnesses the local community as central agents in the implementation of the programme. Hence, as noted above, READ-Nepal assists communities to establish income generating projects of their choice. These projects are used to generate funds necessary for family subsistence, the maintenance of the CLRCs and programme implementation. In addition, READ-Nepal has also mobilised, trained and entrusted the LMCs with the responsibility of ensuring the effective implementation of the programme. Apart from managing the centres and coordinating the educational and income generating activities, the LMCs are also responsible for identifying and recruiting programme facilitators, mobilising resources and mobilising the community members to participate in programme activities.
Recruitment and training of facilitators
READ-Nepal, through the LMCs, has recruited about 92 community-based programme facilitators/librarians throughout the country. READ has conducted 77 training sessions for 1,749 community participants. In most cases, facilitators/librarians are recruited from and assigned to the libraries and resource centres within their own communities. As a rule, facilitators/librarians are expected to have a minimum educational qualification of grade 10 in order to be engaged as programme instructors. Facilitators receive a monthly stipend of at least NPR 3000 raised from the income generating project of the library.
READ-Nepal, in partnership with the national District Education Office provides facilitators/librarians with ongoing training in basic library management, project development and management, early childhood education (ECE) and adult literacy/education (AL/E). With regards to ECE and AL/E, facilitators receive training in, for example:
- child and adult-appropriate teaching-learning methods
- management of community library and resource centres as community development centres
- classroom management
- how to use teaching modules to conduct lessons as well as to moderate the learning process
- local content production, management and dissemination training.
After receiving training, facilitators are expected to run the centres and provide literacy and vocational training assistance to learners or participants. Each facilitator is assigned a maximum of 25 learners. The ‘low’ facilitator-learner ratio is intended to enable facilitators to provide learners with the individual attention and assistance necessary for optimum skills acquisition. In addition, facilitators also play a critical role in mobilising community members to participate in the programme.
Recruitment of learners or participants
READ-Nepal, the LMCs and programme facilitators/librarians employ various strategies to encourage potential learners to enrol on the programme. These include:
- public awareness campaigns (through announcements in public places and at social gatherings)
- public advertisements in pamphlets, local media
- community advocacy by programme participants.
Teaching-learning approaches and methods
Although the CLRCs are accessible to any community member who wishes to consolidate or advance their literacy skills, the programme also provides formal ECE and AL/E classes. To date, about 1 million people have benefited from the programme since its establishment in 1991. Of these, about 5,061 are children enrolled into the ECE classes annually.
ECE classes are run for children between two-and-a-half and four-and-a-half years old. They come to the library until they go school – will stay for at least one year – for six hours per day. Adult literacy classes are undertaken over a period of three months. Thereafter, participants/learners are free to use the learning resources in the libraries to consolidate their skills. In addition, programme facilitators are also on hand to provide ongoing assistance to programme participants and other community members who visit the resource centres. The neo literate people are engaged in the programmes conducted by CLRCs to make sure that their literacy skills are used and upgraded.
READ-Nepal employs a participatory and learner-centred approach to both literacy and vocational skills instruction. Accordingly, the teaching-learning process is largely based on active group discussions/debates, simulations, practical work and question and answer strategies (see pictures below). Most importantly, READ-Nepal also encourages facilitators to use locally available learning resources (aids) including those made by the learners/participants themselves.
Programme assessment: Impact and challenges
READ-Nepal employs both internal and external professionals to monitor and evaluate programme activities and learning outcomes on an ongoing basis. To date, the CLRC programme has been subject to two evaluation studies by the Social Welfare Council and the International Reading Association. These studies revealed the following:
According to the aforementioned studies, the CLRC programme has made significant contributions to individual and community development in Nepal in general and more specifically, to the socially disadvantaged and marginalised members of society. As noted above, about 1 million people of all age groups have benefited from the programme since its inception in 1991. Young children have been helped to acquire basic literacy skills before being enrolled into the formal primary school system while, on the other hand, youths and adults have benefitted from basic literacy and vocational skills training. The centres themselves have become vital focal points for lifelong learning not least because they are open for continuous usage by all members of the community. This has led to an increase in the overall literacy rates within rural communities. In addition, the studies also revealed that:
- The programme has created opportunities for community members to find solutions to common challenges afflicting their families and communities. In so doing, the programme is therefore acting as a critical catalyst for community development and social empowerment. Most importantly, the programme is an avenue for the social emancipation of women, ethnic minorities (Janajatis) and low caste groups (Dalits).
- The programme fosters a culture of intergenerational learning and, as such, parents are now more inclined and better able to assist their children with their school work. This, combined with the values of education that the programme instils in both children and their parents, has resulted in high school attendance/enrolment rates and lower drop-out rates.
- Establishment of income generating projects: as noted above, the programme has assisted community members to establish a variety of income generating projects. Loan and savings clubs have also been established to assist community members to generate more income for projects. These projects/activities have been critical in combating rural poverty as well as in sustaining the CLRCs. In addition, the projects have also created employment opportunities for other community members, an aspect which has contributed towards rural development and combating rural-to-urban migration.
The studies also revealed the following challenges:
- The growth of income generating projects is being impeded by a weak local market. It is therefore imperative for READ-Nepal to assist community members to break into new markets.
- The provision of literacy skills training is very limited. One report asserted that, ‘we found little evidence for literacy training courses at any of the libraries we visited: management team members indicated a number of difficulties: finding funding for literacy teachers, lack of access to workbooks or literacy training materials, as well as lack of communication with the school district, all seemed to provide too many hurdles for local community members’.
- Relevance of books in the centres: ‘many of the books currently indexed in the library have been donated by outsiders, and are unattractive, inaccessible (due to language), and take up valuable space. READ should encourage librarians to screen these books (for example, many old textbooks in areas as varied as statistics, and outdated histories)’. Additionally, the majority of books are in English and on topics that are not at all of interest to patrons.
Apart from the assured long-term funding form READ-Nepal’s partners, the future of the programme is also bright not least because it is community-owned and the community, through the established income generating projects, contributes towards the sustenance of the CLRCs. In addition, the support of the Government is also invaluable for the long-term sustainability of the programme.
- READ Global
- International Reading Association: Building Literacy and Communities Through Libraries: An Evaluation of READ.
- Neuman, S.B., Khan, N. and Dondolo, T. (2008): When I Give, I Own: Building Literacy through READ Community Libraries in Nepal.
Ms Sanjana Shrestha
READ Nepal Country Director
P. O. Box 11995, Dasharath Chand Marg, Baluwatar-4
Telephone: 977-1-4423141 / 977-1-4439858