On Saturday, November 28th book lovers and vendors met at Masa Center in Gaborone for the center’s book fair, which was meant to improve the reading culture in Botswana.
The fair promoted local publishers and distributed reading materials to underprivileged students across Botswana. The event was sponsored by Masa Center and Gabz FM. Speakers included Dr. Kay Raseroka, former Director of Library Services at the University of Botswana and Minister of Education Dr. Unity Dow.
Dopano Sechele, Managing Director of Sebilo Books highlighted the importance of books as access points to knowledge and information.
“There is so much power to gain through books. The answers to all of Botswana’s problems rest between pages,” he said in the first speech of the day.
Sebilo Book Services has also launched a campaign called Books as Gifts, which encourages people to give books this holiday season. In addition, the company has adopted several schools across Botswana, supplying students with the books they need for success. Dr. Raseroka, who worked at the University of Botswana library for over 50 years, told attendants the story of how she brought the first 10,000 books to the UB library almost 50 years ago. Though she remembers the initial excitement of the students and how libraries were a key space for children, she said she was saddened by the fact that state of Botswana’s libraries is disgraceful.
“Libraries are about exposing yourself, and right now there are not sufficient resources or spaces to encourage critical thinking. In schools, our students lack independent thought and they don’t research. They only memorize and regurgitate information rather than developing independent thought,” she said.
For her part, Dr. Dow criticised Batswana’s strong lack of reading culture.
“You don’t read to pass exams,” she said, “you read to receive an education.”
She said when people open their minds to new ideas and attitudes, everyone benefits. After a light lunch, people proceeded to the book fair, which featured a reading competition by the children and storytelling groups.