Kenya map

Kenya
FACT FILE

  • 72%
    Adult literacy rate*
  • 146 out of 188
    Human Development Index ranking*
  • 45.9%
    People living on less than $1.90 per day**

Why we work in Kenya

Despite impressive GDP growth many Kenyans still live below the poverty line and access to quality services such as health care, education, clean water and sanitation is still a luxury for many people. While Kenya has one of the highest adult literacy rates in the region at over 70%, in some of the country’s most deprived areas just 10% of adults can read.

Like many African countries Kenya has a young population, and investing in this future generation is vital. In recent years Kenya has taken impressive strides towards the Millennium Development Goals targets, including near-universal primary school enrolment and narrower gender gaps in education. However, many schools do not have the resources they need – and almost none have school libraries.

Education and reading are highly valued in Kenya, and the libraries are well-used. These libraries need a reliable supply of up-to-date, relevant books to continue to attract regular and new readers. As English is an official language in Kenya, as well as the medium of instruction in schools, the books we send are especially useful.

Kenya has an established network of public libraries, run by the Kenya National Library Service (knls). There is also a rapidly expanding group of rural and community-based libraries, some of which are supported by knls and some which are independent. While these libraries are well-established, many remain very short of books and do not have sufficient budget to purchase the books that they need.

For the many Kenyans who still live in poverty and cannot afford to buy books, libraries often the only books available and there is a real need in these communities for a range of books that support lifelong education, entrepreneurship and community development.

Our work in Kenya

Book Aid International has been working in Kenya since 1960, providing books to schools, public, community and university libraries, prisons, refugee camps and hospitals.

Books for all in Kenya

Kenya has a strong network of over 60 public libraries which are used by hundreds of thousands of people. We provide carefully selected, brand new books in all of these libraries. These books range from the earliest readers for young children right through to health information and adult fiction.

Introducing children to reading 

In addition to providing books for general collections in public libraries in Kenya, our Children’s Corners programme is creating vibrant and welcoming spaces for children in African public libraries, providing brand new books from the UK and purchased locally, grants for library refurbishment and training for librarians in children’s services.

Children’s books and e-learning pilot project

The Children’s books and e-learning pilot project was implemented in partnership with knls between 2013 and 2015. Through this project we worked with a total of 22 libraries, enabling 10 libraries to set up new Children’s Corners and providing 12 existing Children’s Corners with books, resources and training. The project also provided digital resources (tablets and e-readers) to four of these libraries. Specialist training was provided for the librarians in how to use the e-readers and tablets and use them to engage children who might not otherwise make the most of the library. The libraries reported increased visitor numbers and engagement as well as benefits for children with special educational needs. Read the learnings from the pilot

Creating Book Havens in slum communities

We have been providing books to Nairobi’s Mathare and Kibera slum communities for many years, supporting several libraries located in these deprived and often-overlooked communities. These books often provide the only opportunity for the people who live in crowded, chaotic communities to read for pleasure, study and life-long learning.

We are now also investing in these libraries by creating Book Havens in Mathare and Kibera. Each Book Haven aims to create a welcoming, vibrant space where children’s reading and learning can flourish but funding library refurbishment, funding the purchase of local books and providing a collection of brand new, beautiful children’s books from here in the UK. In addition, we provide training for the volunteers and untrained staff who often staff these libraries which provides skills in library management and in how to welcome children into reading. Find out more

Reaching refugees in Kenya

Two of the world’s largest refugee camps are located in Kenya: Kakuma and Dadaab. Through our partnership with Windle Trust International – Kenya, the NGO which provides all secondary education in both camps, we provide brand new, carefully selected books for secondary schools in both camps and for Kakuma’s only community library.

In Kakuma, we also work in partnership with both Windle Truste International and the NGO which provides primary education for the camp’s population, the Lutheran World Federation, to run Reading for all: Kakuma Refugee Camp. The programme creates small Book Box Libraries in classrooms across the camp and provides vital training for unskilled refugee teachers in how to use these books to enrich learning. Reading for all in Kakuma is funded through the generosity of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and we would like to thank players for their support. Find out more

Inspiring Readers across Kenya

More than 20,000 Kenyan children have books in their classrooms thanks to our Inspiring Readers programme. Inspiring Readers establishes Book Box Libraries full of brand new, carefully selected books in schools where pupils would otherwise share just a few old tattered textbooks. In addition, we train teachers in how to bring those books to life in the classroom and connect each school with a local Children’s Corner where a specially trained librarian can provide on-going support for the school and its pupils. Inspiring Readers in Kenya is funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Find out more about Inspiring Readers

The Mother Tongue and English education project

We are working with the Africa Educational Trust (AET) in Dol Dol in Laikipia on a project that aims to help 3,900 mainly Maasai students improve their learning outcomes in school and ease transition from their mother tongue to English language, which is vital for modern life in Kenya. We have provided thousands of brand new UK published books and helped to develop a training package for teacher librarians. 14 new school libraries have now been established by AET and are helping to nurture a culture of reading in schools. Read more about the project’s outcomes.

Supporting higher education in Kenya

Kenya has a thriving higher education sector. Through our partner knls we supply books to nine further and higher education institutions. These books provide specialist knowledge in libraries with limited budgets to afford up-to-date relevant books for their students. We also supply much-needed medical textbooks to the 42 campuses of the Kenya Medical Training College, the country’s leading trainer of health professionals.

*UN Human Development Index 2014

**World Bank

2017 in numbers

102,741
393
My performance in school changed dramatically once I had books to read and a place to study. SAMUEL'S STORY

You may also like

Find out how our digital projects work in libraries.
Read more >
Read about our Inspiring Readers programme.
Read more >
Learn about our support for community libraries like MYSA.
Read more >