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For this month’s Peek at Our Partners we interviewed Ifeoma Esiri of Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue Memorial Libraries, who worked with IBB to get thousands of books to Nigeria last year.

How did the Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue Memorial Libraries begin?

IE: Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue Memorial Libraries were established in 1999 as a memorial to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of the late Zaccheus Onumba Dibiaezue who had risen from a humble farming background to become a lawyer, economist and public servant through self-learning. The late Dibiaezue had no formal education prior to his enrollment to study Economics at the London School of Economics and libraries played a definitive role in his ability to gain admission into such a renowned institution.

IE: How many libraries now operate under the umbrella of ZODML?

There are twelve libraries under the ZODML umbrella. Ten of these are in-school libraries which serve fifteen local government primary schools, one is in a prison and one is a community library which, in addition to its collection of books, offers free access to the Internet. ZODML also has eight mini libraries which we call ‘BookCorners’ (bookcases of about 400 books) that are placed in government secondary schools.

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IE: What is the primary goal of your programs?

ZODML’s vision is a Nigeria in which everyone can learn and develop themselves. The primary goal of our programmes therefore is to enhance self-learning. Our in-school libraries and BookCorners provide access to books and learning resources to pupils and students in government schools while our prison and community libraries do the same thing for adults. The Internet and its invaluable resources is indispensable to self-learning and ZODML, in addition to its libraries, operates an Internet Learning Centre that provides access to the Internet and teaches digital literacy skills to government secondary school students as well as a website with a significant amount of downloadable books and educational materials.

In October, IBB and ZODML worked together to get 57,014 books to Nigeria. What do you see as the greatest barrier to education in Nigeria?

IE: The greatest barrier to education in Nigeria is a combination of government shortfall and the low socioeconomic status of many of its citizens. The government’s budgetary allocation to education has consistently hovered around 10% which is less than half of the 26% recommended by UNESCO. This creates funding problems for a lot of fairly basic needs such as libraries, books, and school lunches. The low socioeconomic status of many Nigerians means that they are not able to provide books, school lunches, and cost of transportation to school for their children and this puts a lot of pressure on families to pull very young children out of school and send them out to try to earn additional income. The additional in-school libraries ZODML will establish with the books from IBB will be a great help in addressing some of the basic needs in government schools.

What are you reading right now?

IE:The Fishermen’ by Chigozie Obioma.