I was supposed to start my first day of work on Monday, but there was a change of plans. There was a videographer in town and they wanted to take her around to show her the different libraries and schools Probigua/Child Aid is helping out.
So first we went to Pedro Molina, the school in Chimaltenango where I’ll be working. This is a converted military base. Part of the agreement made at the end of the civil war was that some military spending would now go towards education instead. I guess the military took this to mean they could hand over bases as part of the deal (Guatemala spends an extremely small amount of their GDP on education, something like 1.7%).
I think the school is for grade school up to high school and there are quite a few students that board here. Some of the classrooms are in former barracks or other buildings. The library/computer lab is in the former mess hall.
I have no idea what it must have been like here during the civil war. Horrible probably doesn’t describe it enough. It is great to see this army base reclaimed for education and children. Where soldiers probably once drilled, girls were playing an uproarious game of soccer this morning, with friends sitting around the field cheering and laughing.
Our next trip was to visit the Bibliobus. It was parked at a school in another town. As soon as recess was over, two classes of girls came running over to the bus. They had about 30 minutes to sit on the bus or outside the bus on chairs and read books. The bibliobus librarian had placed brightly colored plastic chairs and tables outside the bus and had piled picture and story books on each table. As the girls were assigned tables they pored over the books available, trading with friends, looking at pictures, sometimes reading the stories too. At the table I was near I saw several versions of Pinocchio and Little Red Riding Hood, which were the favorites at that table.
Our last stop was at Melotto (I think that was the name of the school). The videographer talked to students in a classroom and then asked if the students could go to the library so she could film them in there. The kids were ecstatic! They jumped out of their seats and ran for the door. Their teacher dismissed them and they ran across the open field to the library building. We passed out stacks of books to the kids and they came to the shelves to exchange books they didn’t like for better books. After filming was done, we asked the kids to close their books and return them to the shelves. The kids were not happy. Three girls came up to me and asked if they could borrow the books, just for one day. I’m sorry, we had to say, not today. You see, most libraries here aren’t set up for lending books. They’re working on this but things are slow here.
In fact, at Pedro Molina the library is what we call closed stacks. That means no one but the librarian can go in the stacks. This makes it difficult since there is no online catalog or catalog of any sort for the students to look up books. I guess they just tell the librarian what subject they are looking for or particular books if they happen to know, and she gets the books for them.
My job for the next four and half weeks is to catalog as many of the books as I can so students can see what is in the library!