11 March 2008

Botswana: Knowledge Opens Doors for Kopong

Francistown — It's all about the spirit of giving and of working together to encourage unity in purpose and self-reliance.

These were the sentiments expressed as the small village of Kopong in the Kweneng District received a gift of a library from the US-based Robert and Sara Rothschild Foundation.

Officially opening the Kopong Community Library & Cultural Centre last week, Youth, Sport and Culture Minister, Moeng Phetho, said in building the library, the partnership between the Foundation, the government and the community was aimed at bridging the information gap amongst underdeveloped populations in Botswana.

He said according to the tripartite partnership, the phased programme for building library facilities in villages at the rate of two a year over a 10-year period would allow the benefitting communities to access knowledge that will improve their lives and accelerate Vision 2016 goals of an Informed Educated Nation.

"The partnership is rooted on the development oriented national principle of self-help (boipelego). Under the smart partnership, while on one hand, the R&SRF constructs libraries, erects perimeter fencing and provides children's play equipment, there is, on the other hand, the government, which, through the Botswana National Library Service (BNLS), provides staff, office supplies and equipment, and the communities provide labour and shelter and, contribute towards the 'buy-a-brick-campaign', a self-help fundraising strategy for the library. The three partners then work together throughout the project from the planning phase to the official opening of the libraries through the respective Library Committees."

The Minister said that the American foundation intends to build two libraries per year for 10 years starting from 2007. The first library was built at Mankgodi, also in the Kweneng District in 2007 and Kopong has been the second to be completed under the project. The two libraries planned for 2008 will be built at Matlhako and Ramokgonami villages in the Central District.

Pheto thanked Robert and Sara Rothschild "for choosing Botswana as one of the countries to benefit from their noble gesture that aims at bridging the information divide amongst some of the underdeveloped communities in Africa."

He also commended the Kopong community for their commitment and enthusiasm for the project right from its planning stages to the "buy-a-brick campaign", facilitated by the support of the incumbent, Kgosi Michael Molefhe, dikgosana (sub-chiefs), the Member of Parliament, Councilors, village leadership and development committees.

Pheto also thanked the benevolence of surviving members of the family of the late Molefe Molefe, (Ratshwene, Kgwakgwe and Letsholo families) who had donated to government the 189 metre2-plot on which the library had been built; BLNS staff for their sustained diligence; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for providing computers under the Global Libraries Initiative; Exclusive Books of Botswana for donating 10 boxes of books; Terry Cooney for designing the wooden shelving and tables in the library; Keagile Keitsile, the building contractor; A. Noble, the furniture contractor; Carl Bauwer, the architect; as well as the utility services provider.

According to Malebogo Morgan, the librarian, the Library with a full house capacity of 30, would be open Mondays to Fridays from 0900 to 1800 hours and Saturdays 0900 to 1200 hours.

Robert Rothschild said that the Foundation felt privileged to be assisting the people of Botswana to access the most updated information sources that would improve their knowledge base. Rothschild said: "I wish to thank the government of Botswana and the Kopong community who have made our dream come true. I would also like to commend a village elder and enthusiastic Victor Legona, who was the first to start digging with a shovel, long before the beginning of the construction."

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