Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Music for books

Richard Mundando left school at 14 to play the guitar. He believed that education had very little to offer him. 

“Classrooms were overcrowded, I had little interaction with the teachers, I found the subjects boring as we had no books to help us understand what we were being taught," says Richard.

“ I wandered around playing guitar and just hanging out," he continued. “I placed a very low value on education."
Richard:swapping music for books

Books on the street

As the years went by Richard spent more time in Livingstone and every day passed street vendors selling self-education books for a few Zambian Kwacha. Street vendors are common in many African countries selling clothes, sweets, mobile phone cards and books. As most books are expensive (more than a months wages for a single book), street vendors sell small, pocket-sized books that are affordable for local people. “At first I started talking to the vendors asking them what was in the books and why would anyone buy them.” A vendor then gave Richard a book on geography and that was a turning point for him.

“ The small book was packed full of information. My reading wasn’t so good at that time, so I bought a couple of small leaflets to improve my English and that’s when I began to understand the importance of reading, the importance of education and how it is the bridge to allow you to take control of your life.

“I simply could not get enough of them,” Richard continued. “I kept playing my guitar so that I could earn money to pay for more books. I then started to swap them with other keen readers. I even set up my guitar next to a bookstand so it would attract more customers. In return I could choose one small pamphlet.”

Like most Zambians, Richard never completed his primary school education.  He continued on his road of self-education and eventually managed to pass his primary school exams in his mid-twenties.

Learning from each other

Richard now runs the Adult literacy classes at the new Book Bus Reading Room in Dambwa, Livingstone.
Alice attends weekly literacy classes

‘There are so many in this community that cannot read or write,” explains Richard. “I believe this just isn’t right. It’s always the poor that are at a disadvantage – unable to go to school and that means they’ll be disadvantaged for life.”

In the mornings Richard teaches children and in the afternoons he runs free adult literacy classes for anyone in the local community that wants to drop in.

Alice has recently joined the class. “I never learnt to read at school. Each time I go to the market I cannot read the signs on the stalls. I decided that I will now learn to read. I’m looking forward to the new classes in the Reading Room. It’s great,” she concludes.

Explains Richard, “The new Reading Room is a great asset for this community. We now have a cool, dry and safe place to hold our classes. The children see adults coming in for literacy lessons and the adults see the children immersed in the new library. My hope is that one will learn off the other and together we can help make our community literate. I gives me great hope for the future,” he concludes.