opinionBy Emmanuel R. Karake
HOLDING a parcel of documents in one hand, I walk past a group of people gazing at a gigantic building. The scenery around is breath taking and I stop to gaze as well. As I walk towards the building, several people trek towards the entrance as they admire the unique architectural design of the first modern public library in Kigali.
This is a good facility and it is well stocked. I thank the government for this. In many countries, public libraries are non-existent
The Rwf, 3bn gigantic imposing state-of-the-art building makes almost everything in the vicinity invisible.
Located in Kacyiru, just twenty minutes drive from the city centre, the new building which can seat over 300 people, is expected to change the poor reading culture in the country. The library has a book collection of over 30,000 copies on a variety of topics.
Education experts say Rwanda Public Library Services, which will also be launched today, is a timely intervention to address the poor reading culture in the country.
No wonder it was also the venue for the reading Culture Week Festival which ends today. The festival was graced by respectable regional publishers like Fountain Publishers, and East Africa Publishers, among others.
"We want to distract children from watching too much television. We must work on improving the reading culture among children," said Uwera Jane, a director at Penda Kusoma Publishers Ltd.
The building is self imposing and competes for attention with the US Embassy on the opposite end. Inside the library one sees an ideal setting for reading.
"This is a good facility and it is well stocked. I thank the government for this. In many countries, public libraries are non-existent. This is an indicator that the government is determined to improve the literacy rates through enhancing the reading culture," remarked one of the participants at the festival.
According to officials, Part of the library's mission is to provide early literacy support to children in the community, helping them get ready to go to school and embrace a reading culture at an early age.
Like in other countries across the region, the reading culture in Rwanda is very poor.
"The reading culture is nonexistent here. I cannot have views on something that is nonexistent," Oscar Bahizi of the Law Development Centre at Nyanza noted.
".... look at that elegant public library which is always literally empty. How many people read a newspaper at the bus stop in the morning? You don't need figures to appreciate that," he added.
An employee of a publishing company summed up the problem as a cycle where parents do not read and children do not have anyone to look up to and end up not reading and the cycle continues.
"Even some of the senior government officials do not have bookshelves in their houses; just visit any of them," he told The New Times as he stood idle because there was no one to attend to at his stand.
But what has led to this dreadful vice of people not picking up the reading culture.
Speaking to reporters, Culture and Sports Ministry Permanent Secretary, Edward Kalisa, attributed the vice to the fact that Rwandans are still stuck in oral tradition where communication was by word of mouth.
There are no documented statistics to show the status of the reading culture, but statistics show that education is on the rise, an indicator that the future of the reading culture is bright.
Kalisa says the long term plan is to have similar facilities in all districts.