SINCE ITS INCEPTION, THE KEY MANDATE OF THE BRITISH COUNCIL IN ZIMBABWE HAS BEEN TO UPLIFT EDUCATION, ARTS, AND SOCIETY IN THE COUNTRY. THEIR LOCAL ARTS PROGRAMMES CONNECT ZIMBABWEANS WITH STAKEHOLDERS FROM THE UK TO DEVELOP COLLABORATIONS THAT CONNECT LOCAL ARTISTS WITH GLOBAL AUDIENCES. THE COUNCIL ALSO DEVELOPS PROFESSIONAL NETWORKS AND EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMMES.
T HE British Council’s education work addresses inequality and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa by sharing access to global knowledge and innovation, and by providing access to skills and professional development. One of the key ways in which they’ve been doing this is by having a library to accommodate distance learning and reading for learners; ranging from O’level students reading for their GCSEs to professionals studying for their ACCA board exams and people sitting for English Langauge tests.
The Council also hosts management express fora and online classrooms, while liaising with various British academic and professional examination institutions to make the following examinations available in Zimbabwe: IELTS, Cambridge English, ACCA, CIMA, CIPS and many others. Since they launched Connecting Classrooms in 2006, as many as 200 school links have been made between Zimbabwe and the UK, and over 1000 teachers have benefitted from the leadership skills provided by the programme. To make life easier for users, the British Council recently renovated their library, to accommodate more books and readers. The initial concept was designed by South African architect, Keith Thompson who was engaged by the Council.
The British Council is located along Cork Road, in Harare’s embassy district, Belgravia, a place that is accessible to most readers and also very quiet. The library interior is simple yet light and airy, with exposed roof trussing and mobile bookcases that give the room a light feel. Light plastic and steel chairs in playful colors give the library a modern and eclectic feel, dispelling the myth of old stuffy libraries with old books. A long sleek, desk attached to the walls is available for library users who are working on written assignments or on their laptops, and desktop computers are also available for readers who do not have their own machine or who are unable to haul their laptops across town.
The library’s computers were installed by Omni Africa. In fact, the library has been specially modified for digital learning, with desktop computers for several users and wi-fi for members. In fact, the library is also hooked up to the (Online Public Access Catalogue) OPAC system that allows users to find books and other materials available from the library; and to ProQuest, a system that facilitates research and learning by curating content, allowing library users to have access to research and materials from learning institutions across the globe.
However, readers who are simply interested in reading for pleasure are also welcome, and a carefully chosen selection of Booker Award winning novels are available for their perusal. There is a close circle of comfortable black sofas for them to sit on, whilst readers who would prefer to study outside can do so on the library’s comfortable garden chairs. Thermacool installed modern and sophisticated HVAC systems that ensure the library is cool in the summer and warm in winter, allowing readers to make the most of their time in the library. The library subscriptions are affordable for readers from all walks of life with annual rates of $25 for a basic subscription and $250 for corporates with team members of five people.