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Libraries key to transforming education system

ON JANUARY 16, 2019, Vice-President Inonge Wina, with Higher Education Minister Nkandu Luo and General Education Minister David Mabumba, officially launched the Zambia national education conference and exhibition under the theme ‘Improving the quality of Zambia’s education: the education that we want’.
The conference’s main focus was the transformation of the education sector to make it responsive to the country’s needs and aspirations for development. During the official opening, Mrs Wina affirmed Government’s commitment to improve the quality of education in order to enable human capital response to modern development demands.
Minister of General Education David Mabumba bemoaned the low ranking of Zambia’s education sector on the international comparative benchmarking analysis. The global partnership for education attributes Zambia’s status to lack of teaching and learning materials. However, it is important to know that libraries have the ability to mitigate such challenges in their quest to meet information needs.
A good example of a library in the sector is a school library, as it has an impact on the foundation of a learner. The International Federation of Library Associations in their School Library Manifesto states that: “The school library is essential to every-long term strategy for literacy, education, information provision and economic, cultural and social development. It has been demonstrated that once librarians and educators work together, learners achieve higher levels of literacy, reading, learning, problem-solving and information and communication technology skills.
It is worth noting that libraries and education form an inseparable relationship, both being fundamentally and synchronically related to and co-existent with each other. One cannot be separated from the other. None of them is an end in itself; rather both are a means to an ultimate end. That is why more libraries are attached to schools and higher learning institutions.
Libraries support education by providing a forum for global network of information resources, which helps to inculcate individual information literacy skills thereby enhancing independent learning. They possess different types of resources that inform, educate and make people information literate. Information literacy enhances skills that encourage learning competencies and instil abilities to access and use information in various formats.
The agenda of improving the quality of Zambia’s education system has to take into account the role of libraries. Libraries play an important role in facilitating planning and implementation of learning programmes that will equip learners with skills necessary to succeed.
Through resource-based programmes, students acquire skills to collect, critically analyse and organise information, solve problems and communicate their understanding.
Libraries provide access to relevant curriculum information and professional development materials.They also provide opportunities to plan, implement and evaluate learning programmes which integrate information resources.
The current Zambian education policy recognises the role of libraries in the education sector.
This part of the policy is being implemented through Zambia library services, which has been instrumental in supporting the sector through the provision of specialised library services in provincial, branch and library centres.
The absence of the Library and Information association of Zambia, a professional non-profit organisation that unites all institutions and people working in libraries and information services in Zambia at the conference and exhibition, reveals how much work the association has in creating awareness on the importance for libraries.
It deprived the conference of the input of a major supporting stakeholder to offer guidance on how well education transformation can be supported by libraries.
May I conclude by stating that Government should be recommended for this commitment and political will in fostering an agenda to transform the education sector. This will provide the nation with enough skilled labour to convert natural resources into products.
However, it is important to remember that for effective learning to take place, there must be libraries, making it important for stakeholders in the education sector to recognise the role of libraries and engage librarians in important conferences of this significance.
This is the only way roles of libraries can be defined and stipulated in the agenda for education transformation clearly.
The author is a library and information specialist.