Get Mbala Reading
We caught up with Pascal Nsokolo, founder of ‘Get Mbala Reading’, which is a programme in Pascal’s home district of Mbala, Zambia’s most northerly large town.
He told us a little more about the project and explained how the books that you help to send have reached children who would otherwise have very little access to quality reading materials.
What inspired you to start ‘Get Mbala Reading’?
I set up Get Mbala Reading to make a difference. My grandfather was the chief for the area I was born, and as I am quite privileged and have access to things that not everyone else in the village has, I thought ‘what can I give?’ So I opted to try and make a difference by starting a project that aims to raise literacy levels in Mbala, which are very low; 70% of children leave primary school here without meeting the expected level of literacy. We aim to do this by making sure every child in Mbala has access to books.
How important is it for ‘Get Mbala Reading’ to have a network of charities to work with and why?
It’s huge. The books we receive make a huge difference. With the support that Book Aid International provides, we can help thousands of children access education and change their lives.
We don’t want children going to secondary school without knowing how to read and write properly, so we aim to reach them at an age so at by the time they get to secondary school, they will be able to grasp basic reading and writing. If we leave it until secondary school it’s often too late.
We are able to distribute these with the help of the District Education Board Secretary – she’s been instrumental in helping us deliver this programme and the books to the most vulnerable and needy in the district.
What access to books might the children that you support have if it wasn’t for the programme?
Very little. The Government provides some support but they can’t reach everybody. This is where private sector organisations like ours plug the gap.
Without the extra support that comes from people like us and the other NGOs in this sector, it would be so difficult to reach children in remote areas, so it’s important for us to go further now with our work; we’re about to launch a mobile library that will be reaching extremely rural and remote areas.
For those children, books are very limited, they do have some basic books that they get from the Government, but it is sometimes insufficient and maybe you’ll find two kids sharing one book and there’s not any extra reading beyond what they get at school.
What is your hope for the project, the communities and the individuals it helps?
The ideal result is for education levels to improve, but it’s a long-term project.
We expect that the kids we’re helping now, 10 years down the line, will be the future doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses and managing directors, but if we don’t give them the opportunity now that’s not going to happen.
There will be many that will have had an education because of Get Mbala Reading – young girls in particular.
Once they have an education they will be able to make the right decisions. Without an education, many of them will drop out of school and up getting married and having children young. so it helps if they get educated. It increases awareness and the importance of not leaving school early. Once they get their education they’ll be able to make the right decisions for themselves and their futures.
I know we’re changing lives for the next generation and hopefully, that will cut the cycle of poverty. When there’s one or two in a family that get educated they can change the lives of siblings and the wider family. It’s an impact on the whole community.
The rewards may not be seen now – they’re getting educated now – but long term, when they’ve gone through the system thanks to the programme and Book Aid International books, it will be clear. It will be visible when we’re long gone.
Thank you for your support and long may it continue.