Staff writer Wandile Mavuso | 01/30/2015
This follows an agreement whereby the City of Tshwane partnered with the United States Embassy in 2014 to open an American-style public library, an American Corner, hosted by the Es’kia Mphahlele Community Library, in the heart of downtown Pretoria.
American Corners are places that advance knowledge and inspire dialogue and collaboration between people. They serve as gateways to U.S. culture, values, and education to support mutual understanding among the diverse communities of our nations. Corners are open to all members of the public and services are free of charge.
Speaking during the Official opening of the American Corner, Deputy Chief of Mission, Catherine Hill-Herndon said she was delighted that the Embassy of the United States and the City of Tshwane was willing to share its space and work together to accomplish a common goal. She mentioned that the corner is the sixth and newest one in South Africa, and this was a result of the co-operation between the American Embassy and Community Library Services around South Africa
“The first American Corner opened nine years ago in Pietermaritzburg and we have them throughout South Africa and they are good places for people to come and learn about the United States and to exchange ideas”, she said. She also mentioned that she considers the American Corners to be a strong symbol of the strong partnership between the United States and South Africa and between the various missions and the Cities in which they are located.
“This American Corner is unique, because it is the only one in South Africa that is going to be a venue where the South African Alumni of the Nelson Mandela Fellows (YALI) will be able to use the equipment, space and video-conferencing to mentor their leaders and conduct their programs and to run some of their own events.” She added that there was the first YALI group that came back last year August and she hopes they will be able to take advantage of the space and work closely with the students who visit the corner to do their own things.
“With the facilities that we have set up here we think that social and business entrepreneurs will find a place to develop their ideas, their leadership skills, and their professional networks and do programs and workshops that are specifically designed for them.” Furthermore, Catherine said students and learners of all ages will be invited to take part in Massive on-line open courses (MOOCS) which allow students to participate in classes and lectures run by pre-eminent academics and experts from U.S. universities and other universities.
Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of State, David Gilmour said this was a new type of an American Corner that will focus on bringing new technology and digital content to young entrepreneur’s students and leaders. “American Corners are more than just libraries, places to watch movies, but American Spaces give people of all ages a window into the United States and an opportunity to learn about our history and culture.” He added that they offer visitors resources to explore various aspects of American society and to learn more about the world in general.
Acting Executive Mayor of the City of Tshwane, Terence Mashego said they were honored that the American Embassy chose Tshwane to establish a very unique library named after Es’kia Mphahlele. “We want to thank the American Embassy for extending such a program in the City of Tshwane, and further ensuring that our youth have access to programs that will enhance their skills and further give them a broader perspective of American culture”, he said. The Executive Mayor also added that he hopes the programs that have begun will see exchange programs between the youth of South Africa and that from the United States. He applauded the partnership and made a re-assurance that the partnership is still going to go a long way.
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