Edo: Public, School Libraries Are Shadows Of Themselves
Edo state at a point was proud of owner of some of the best library facilities in the country to the extent that people come from far and near for research work.
The libraries in the then Midwest Region and later Bendel State were built during the military administration of Brigadier-General Samuel Ogbemudia.
Then there was at least a government library in every local government headquarters across the three senatorial zones. The library system so flourished that it even pride itself of having a Will Library which was explored by legal luminaries and wealthy persons who did not want to create acrimony for their children when they depart the earth.
For years, it was a board of its own and was run as an independent body until it was merged with the Ministry of Education under the supervision of the Commissioner of Education.
The state of the libraries began to deteriorate in the late nineties when the military administration of the state Group Captain Baba Iyiam insisted that all government agencies should be self-sustaining.
Students and others were made to pay stipends before they could use public libraries in the state. The no funding policy of that administration led to the deterioration of public libraries in the state as workers made do with few available books, and no attention was further paid to library facilities.
However, since 1999 when the country returned to the civilian rule the Library Board has suffered from poor funding. “You need to be here few weeks to WAEC and the whole place will be crowded, students at times sit outside as there are no spaces for them to sit.
In fact, at a time I gave away my seat to one of the students since I was not writing examination. I just come to read newspapers which I could not even get”, a research student from the University of Benin, told The Guardian at the Central Library in Benin City on Thursday.
At the Library complex, ceiling fans were working in the reading halls, but none of the over eight air conditioners were functioning. It was also gathered that there is no functional borehole in the complex.
The only one there had been faulty for sometimes now, and repair has not been done on it. At the social science, science, philosophy, literature and other sections, shelves were half-empty. “The major problem we have here is poor funding, it is as if this sector has been neglected by the state government.
Most of the books are outdated, and out of stock. Government don’t supply books, because some people said workers will steal them, but that is not true. It is for the sake of the children and public education,” a library worker who pleaded anonymity revealed.
A visit to several public schools in the state showed almost empty shelves in the libraries and where there are books, most of them outdated.
A visit to the various public libraries across the state showed a poor state of infrastructures namely dilapidated buildings, insufficient staff, low productivity, and lack of books.
In fact the last set of books in some of the libraries was twenty years ago. For instance,the one in Igarra headquarters of Akoko-Edo local government has not been stocked by the authorities for many years.
However, a US-based group recently rehabilitated the building, and brought some new books to the place. Some of the buildings have been overgrown with weeds and facilities short of supply.
An educationist and politician who also did not want to be mentioned for political reasons said; “We lost the glory of our libraries during the military era.
Even though it blossomed during the time of Ogbemudia, it deteriorated during the military. “At a time in Edo state, all public schools had functional libraries, but it is no longer so and this has also led to the drop in reading habit of the youths.
It used to be a competition among our youths on how many novels one can read in a day, week, or a month. Information was often shared. Those who were not reading were looked at with disdain”