Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Iringa Regional Library

This year, during a brief stay in Iringa, Tanzania, I walked by the Iringa Regional Library several times. Seeing this building brought back fond memories of my days as a student at Mkwawa High School, 1971-72, in this city. I used to come to this Library regularly, alone or with friends who were fellow Mkwawa students.

This year, I could not resist the urge to take a photo of this Library which meant so much to me in my student days. I recalled the many hours I spent reading in this Library, which was well stocked with different kinds of books and other publications, including the latest. I recalled one of the librarians, John Simbamwene, a famous novelist who wrote in Swahili and whom I adored. He was a most gentle person, very well dressed all the time. Talking with him was always inspiring.

There were bookstores as well, not far from the Library, on the same street, and I used to visit them. It was a great time to be a student in Tanzania. As students, we knew what we were doing, and we worked hard. The teachers were well trained, knowledgeable, and conscientious.

Mkwawa High School was one of the best high schools in the country. To enter Mkwawa, you needed to be an outstanding student. Although entry into the University of Dar es Salaam, the only university in the country at the time, was very competitive, half of my Mkwawa graduating class got in. Many of my classmates went on to become distinguished scientists, diplomats, writers, civil servants, professors and so on. I like to think that this Library, modest as it appears, played a role in our lives.

This year, I did not just walk past this Library. I went in and took a look. Then I had a chance to talk with the lady at the reception desk. She struck me as a person who genuinely loved the Library. When she learned that I am a professor in the USA, she asked me to help the library with books, especially in the field of English. I am always delighted to have such conversations with people who want to foster positive change in our country.

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