Miraculously, our PCV Books for Africa Crate was “cleared” on Friday, October 12th, which means the books can now enter Ethiopia with Duty Free Status. This is significant, because without “deed of donation” being recognized, we could not have afforded the costs associated with clearing the crate. All the work would have been for nothing. It would have been a true defeat. The bureaucratic process caused me quite a lot of unexpected anxiety, reminding me why I normally appreciate a totally different type of work (such as teaching and working in the creative arts).
Short version of a very long story: Chad and I worked with our contracted FIDO representative Getachew for 5 days last week and finally got the 9 official papers with purple stamps the Custom’s Office requires to grant Deed of Donation status. This complete story is actually quite long and complex, and I’m simply exhausted from the process.
What I learned about myself during this process is that I am capable of understanding complex interrelated bureaucratic processes. Now that I have personally experienced the true and heavy weight of Ethiopian Bureaucratic Systems, I feel better prepared to bring the books to our own community.
Why? Because now I will design a new, bureaucratic “Project Agreement” between the PCVs (Chad and I) and our CTE ELIC and Primary Schools. Specifically, these books will be designated as one part of a “Literacy Pilot Project” in which the donated books will NOT be locked up in a library. Our agreement will clearly state the importance of using these books on a daily basis and not punishing anyone (teachers/librarians/students) (monetarily or otherwise) for any future loss or damage to any of these books. This will be spelled out in very bureaucratic terms (Article III: Obligations of PCVs; Article IV Obligation of Primary Schools, etc…) and through bureaucratic means, these donated books will not be entered into the normal inventory lists of local government primary school libraries.
Through bureaucracy, we hope that the books we bring to our host institutions will be put into regular use by students and teachers in Primary Schools. We will create accessible “Mini-Libraries” and/or “Lending Libraries” and the books will be handled, read and hopefully enjoyed by students and teachers alike. At the end of our Pilot Project, an inventory will be taken to assess the use of the books and assess any loss or damage. After we leave Debre Markos, some time in 2013, the books which remain in the community will most likely (quite probably) be locked up, but this will not be up to us to decide. We will be long gone. What will remain is the concrete memories of reading/handling books and Early Grade literacy experiences of students and teachers during the Pilot Project.
This is all necessary and it cannot be avoided. The Bureaucratic System must be understood and utilized to keep our books from being locked up in a prison library system, where teachers won’t check out books because they don’t want to pay for their loss or damage. Librarians will also be held monetarily accountable for any books which are lost/stolen or damaged, and perhaps they could also lose their jobs.