25 Jan 2016

An Appeal to Assist an African University Library Devastated by Fire

Guest post by Dr Rosarii Griffin, UCC Governor, Lecturer in Adult Education and Researcher in the Vice President’s Office for Teaching and Learning. Rosarii is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Centre for Global Development at UCC

picture courtesy of  Nathalis Wamba 

Mzuzu University Malawi is partnered with University College Cork, Ireland. On Dec 18th, we received the news that a devastating fire at MZUNI University Library had just destroyed 45,000 books, the lifeblood for 4,000 University students who depend on it. The staff and students at MZUNI are appealing to anyone, but particularly its partners, for help. Help includes: funding to support a temporary library facility, access to e-resources and/or gifts of books to populate the temporary facility. Any assistance from Higher Education Institutions and particularly Libraries, would be most gratefully received to assist them in their plight. Please help if you can.

I recently visited MZUNI on a capacity building project and I was in that Library in September, and I admired it, especially the dedication of its staff’. Although not resourced with ‘state of the art’ facilities – and still very much dependent on the text book - and with little access to computers or the internet, nevertheless, it worked. It was a lovely library with a lovely atmosphere. It was used and loved very much by the students. They had study areas attached to the reading areas, again, equipped with no powerpoints, indicative of the lack of technical resources available to staff or students. Nevertheless, the Library hummed of busy minds reading, studying, and the sound and smell of turning pages and older books was one I had not experienced for a while. Impressed by its form and function, I took many photos of the library, and that is what made the news so shocking for me. And if it was bad for me, it must be totally devastating for MZUNI staff and students – their bright, airy, vibrant library resource lost, overnight. Devastating, just devastating!

picture courtesy of  Nathalis Wamba 

Fr John Ryan, an Irish Kilteagan priest and Professor of Maths at Mzuzu University, with over 40 years experience in Africa says  "The fire has indeed been a devastating blow to MZUNI and it is only by a concerted effort by all partners, stakeholders and friends that we can 'solve' this one. The main focus of the university is to remain open and to keep to the academic calendar for the sake of the students. Any help given will certainly be very much appreciated by Mzuzu University. Mzuzu is the main city in the northern region of Malawi which is often regarded as isolated and 'not developed' even to Malawian standards.  And Malawi is now ranked the poorest country in the world, ranked according to per capita income."

The Vice Chancellor, Robert Ridley, says ‘We are planning to convert the hall into a temporary library and to move the student cafeteria to the Community Development Centre just outside campus. We will also seek funds to build a prefabricated structure to take the place of the hall for exams and other events - possibly located on flat ground close to ESSUP building.   We are finalising our book lists and various needs and losses and should have lists for people and institutions to provide gifts in kind by the new year. We are also setting up an account to receive donations under the Trust Fund and will be advertising that soon.’

See below for more information on the fire

 45, 000 books destroyed in Mzuzu University library inferno

Govt pledge support to Mzuzu University after burnt libary:

Dr Ridley is trying to connect with as many partners and stakeholders as possible as it is only through a concerted effort that this can be solved. Any assistance for MZUNI library would be gratefully received.

If you are able to, and wish to, help please find details of the account as well as the Bank Swift code for Standard Bank Limited, Mzuzu Branch. Funds can be transferred through TT (Telegraphic Transfer) to this account. Note that it is a US$ account.

Account Number: 0240036228300
Account Name: Mzuzu University Library Fund
Branch Code: 1021
Swift Code: SBICMWMX

Mobile: +265-888-824-095 or +265-999 274-224


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  5. hi Niamh. Apologies for the confusion but that glitch has been rectified now. Martin