In February, the University of Lomé in Togo, a French-speaking country on the coast of West Africa, received over 800 pounds of literary texts from Texas State’s English Department as study materials for Togolese students.
Dr. Komi (Prosper) Begedou, a Fulbright Visiting Scholar from 2014-15, helped facilitate the book drive with the help of the English Department and Sigma Tau Delta, an International English Honor Society within the English Department.
“This book donation is important because the main Library of the University of Lomé lacks books in English because Togo is a French-speaking country,” Begedou wrote in an email. “With these books that have been donated, students majoring in English, especially literature, will have a variety and recent books to read.”
Before the donation, the few English books in the University of Lomé’s library were outdated and missing larger collections of recent works. Dr. Komla Avono, the director of the main library of the University of Lomé, expressed excitement over the poetry texts the library received so his poetry students could study the works of Emily Dickenson and Walt Whitman.
According to Steven Wilson, an honorary professor of International Studies in Texas State’s English Department, accumulating the books took several months.
“The collection of books was first broached by my colleague Dr. Elvin Holt,” Wilson said. “I then encouraged the students in our English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, to supervise the project. They then shared the project with faculty and students, gathering the books for several months. We also sought books through our Department’s various social media.”
The books were collected from the fall of 2014 and continued through the summer of 2015, according to Dr. Holt, a professor of English and Diversity Studies. Sigma Tau Delta helped organize and collect the texts, as books donated by faculty were collected in the faculty mailroom.
The shipment to Togo was delayed for an extended amount of time due to its large size. When the books finally reached the University of Lomé, the main library was under construction, which made it impossible to have a reception until the library was finished.
The official reception was held on Feb. 7, 2017 as the U.S. Ambassador to Togo, David Gilmour, led the official ceremony recognizing the donation in the University of Lomé’s library.
Koudjo Vinyo Gbafa, a Ph.D. student at the University of Lomé with a concentration in American Studies, described the relationship between Texas State and the University of Lomé as a “golden opportunity” for his university and other students in his field.
“As for the students, the reception of these books has fostered an intellectual hope in us,” Gbafa said. “I am currently in year one of my Ph.D. studies, and these books will surely continue to help me offer outstanding and remarkable arguments in my Ph.D. dissertation.”
Dr. Dan Lochman, the Chair of the Department of English, said the department would certainly consider sending more books to the University of Lomé in the future if an ongoing need is confirmed.
“I would love to see the collaboration between Texas State University and the University of Lomé continue,” Begedou wrote in an email. “I would also love to see professors and students from Texas State University coming to Togo for short visits to organize capacity enhancement programs and to learn about the people and culture of Togo.”