Reading in school

Tuning back into school with books

10th July 2020 | Blog

Irene is the Head Teacher at Morneau Shepell Secondary School for Girls in Kenya’s Kakuma Refugee Camp, one of the world’s largest camps. Nearly 20% of residents are under the age of 18.


Life is restricted for people living in Kakuma even without Covid-19 lockdown. As refugees, they cannot leave the camp and education offers the only possible hope of a brighter future outside the camp.

Life in Kakuma is especially hard for girls who are at risk of assault as they move around the camp and who are often under pressure from their families to help with chores and care for siblings rather than attend school.

Irene is determined to help the girls in her school succeed and believes books form an important part of their education, but few of her pupils have any at home.

So, she and her staff are looking at how to get books to them from the school library, which includes books you have helped to send. And in the meantime are planning how they can use books to help pupils get back up to speed when schools reopen.

Busy Kakuma street
Kakuma Refugee Camp is very crowded which makes social distancing difficult

“Our school closed on 17th March and the girls have been home since then and many don’t have books. Maybe they have one or two or three at most.

Kakuma is very crowded and social distancing is almost impossible. [Having Covid-19 in the camp] would be detrimental. That is why the Kenyan Government decided to lockdown the camp – there isn’t anybody coming in or getting out of the camp.

Learning in class
Learning in class before lockdown

Even we, the teachers are not able to get into the camp. So each teacher has a WhatsApp group for their class. We try to give the girls work, notes and assignments via WhatsApp so that they’re able to learn at home. However, not all the students have phones.

For me, books are very, very key.

For me, books are very, very key. Kakuma is far from everything and refugees have limited movement. Students at other schools up country have local libraries [outside of Covid-19] where they can go and read books. In Kakuma those things are not there. They fully depend on the books in schools. If we do not have the books then they will not get exposed to what the other students are getting exposed to. Books improve their performance.

Reading together in the library


They like the books from Book Aid International and they use them a lot, especially the novels. They really like the novels. Every day they ask for novels so they can improve their language. In fact, they have challenged me to get more books so they can read them. I’ve realised that’s the impact of the books because we are not forcing them to read, it’s something they want to do.

Reading science books in the library
Using books at Morneau Shepell Secondary School for Girls in Kakuma

Education is the only hope for the girls of getting out of the camp. I get a lot of satisfaction being able to lead a team that can help these girls to transform their lives and to get out of the camp and get careers and be able to support their families. We also take overage learners and mothers who are married, so that we can empower them to have a career.

All the conversations we’ve been having on post-Covid recovery is around books.

All the conversations we’ve been having on post-Covid recovery is around books.

Books will help us push the syllabus. We will give the students the books and they will be able to read ahead. This will help them tune back to school faster.”

Help send more books

Your gift can send books to schools like Irene's to help pupils get back to learning after lockdown