Since 2018, a complex humanitarian crisis in Cameroon has impacted the lives of 3.3 million people. We’ve been working with local NGOs to help reach some of the thousands of displaced children in villages who have no access to reading or learning materials.
One child these books have reached is 11 year old Samatha*, whose life was changed forever by conflict in her village. This is her story.
“My name is Samantha. I am 11 years old and I now live with my uncle. We ran into the bush three years ago when the military people came to our village and started fighting. We stayed there for six months, my mother died and later my father died.
One day a young man came in, he said he was sent by the Bishop to rescue those of us who were still alive. They brought us back and on Sunday they announced our names in the different churches and that is how I got reconnected to my uncle.
I have not gone to school for two years now but the Reverend father came to us in the church hall and they teach us many things and twice every week we play games and cook food.
I love singing because It helps me to feel happy after losing my parents.
When I grow up I want to be a lawyer so that I can make peace between those fighting war, settle problems amongst and between families and nations.
I do not have books at home but I can read books in the Discovery Book Boxes twice every week.
My favourite subject is history, we learn English, maths, food nutrition and other subjects! When I go to the centre I copy things from the books to learn at home. I pray that they send some more books so that many other children in the bushes can read. I want to thank Book Aid International for all the books, now we can read and write again.”
With thanks to RELX Group, whose ongoing support has enabled us to reach displaced children and young people in Cameroon with brand new, up to date books.
Since 2018, Cameroon has continued to face a complex humanitarian crisis, impacting the lives of 3.3 million people. This crisis has led to families being separated and children left out of school for months or years at a time. For Children in Cameroon, Covid-19 is another obstacle to their rights to education.
Book Aid International has delivered around 60 Pioneer Book Boxes to Cameroon that, through the help of Non-Government Organisations, we sent to areas where libraries and schools are not able to be accessed. Filled with brand new books, the boxes act as not only a source of new reading material but a place to come to learn, be inspired, create connections and make friendships.
Sheera* is 13. She now lives with her grandmother as three years ago, her mother, father and siblings were killed by stray bullets in her village when the military attacked. Since then, she hasn’t been back to school.
Sheera was shown the Pioneer Book Boxes by her local Catholic Church, who have been reaching out to refugees since the unrest began. She now comes for holiday classes, and this is how she’s been able to read and write again. She tells us:
“When I grow up, I want to do Agriculture so that I can grow a lot of food, fruits, cocoa, coffee and plantains. So many people are hungry because there is no food. I want to feed the world with food from my farms.”
We did not have books to read until Book Aid International gave Pioneer Book Boxes to the Catholic priest and now we can read two or three days every week. I am so happy.
We also spoke to Tracy*, an 11-year-old who’s family store in the local market was burned during a bomb explosion. Her family lost everything, and she had to leave school to start selling on the road. Having access to a Pioneer Book Box has given her a chance to read and write again.
Whenever I read, I feel happy and I forget about all the bad things that happened.
Dedicated staff like Mary-Anne, Executive Director of Girls Against Violence, are key in helping children like Sheera and Tracy continue with their education. Twice a week, Mary- Anne takes the box to displaced children who have no books in their schools or home and children who have lost everything in the conflict.
Now they can read and write again and are ready for school.
“Initially, most could not read. The phonics books helped a lot. When we met Sheera in November last year, she was very shy because she could not read, but now she reads and writes well. If they didn’t have access to the Pioneer Book Boxes, this wouldn’t be possible.”
*Due to safety reasons, we have changed the names of the people we spoke to.
Covid-19 has brought education to a standstill for people across the world. In Cameroon, intrepid local NGOs are determined to not let the pandemic further affect the learning of children whose lives have already been greatly impacted by ongoing conflict. They are making Pioneer Book Boxes filled with brand new books safely available for children to enjoy.
Here, ten-year-old Fortune* tells us how the books are bringing her hope and happiness.
When we were running away from the war, we spent months in the forest. Many people did. We could not go to school, church or hospital. We lived in fear, hunger and pain.
But one day, pastors came to give food and clothes to people in the forest and they took us to the Catholic church in Kumba. Then, when fighting settled down, a family gave us a room in their house to stay in.
I was so happy because I could read again.
In October last year they brought the Pioneer Book Box to the Catholic Mission. I was so happy because I could read again.
At the church hall and in our house, I learn English, Maths, French, Geography etc with books from the Pioneer Book Box. They have helped me a lot. I have not gone to school since I left my home. I am praying for schools to start again in October.
I am praying for schools to start again in October.
My favourite subject is English Language and my favourite book is Phonics and English Grammar. I am so happy with the books.
When I grow up, I will be a journalist so that I will be able to report things that are happening in our towns, villages and our whole world so that people can be helped to live in peace and unity.
Thank you so much for the books, they have given us hope.
Thank you so much for the books, they have given us hope.
Many used it as an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of literacy and reading, introduce more members of the local community to the library and also to highlight literacy and multilingualism – the theme of this year’s International Literacy Day.
Our partners flew the flag for literacy in all manner of locations from national libraries in bustling capital cities to small community libraries in rural areas.
And everyone was invited – and attended – from Government ministers, national TV stations, newspaper journalists to mayors, chiefs, farmers, local NGOs, publishers, authors, and of course teacher, pupils and their parents.
Books you helped to send were used as prizes for participating schools, providing 100s of new, inspiring children’s books for them to add to their library collections.
Here, our partners tell us more about how they marked the day – and the impact it has had in their communities:
CAMEROON – EISERVI library
“EISERVI library is located in Yaounde, the political capital of Cameroon. The city today is made of all ethnic groups in Cameroon and many people work as civil servants. Ongoing conflict means that IDPs are flocking to the city and school class sizes are swelling meaning that children have to share books often one between ten.
The library serves the community of Yaounde and Cameroon in general with books to meet the needs and aspirations of children and adults, academics and entrepreneurs.
Our International Literacy Day celebrations included speeches, a spelling bee, a tour of the library, poem presentations, cultural dances and a fashion parade. The activities showcased the different languages in Cameroon and students also held a debate on ‘can literacy be acquired through multilingualism?’
The children were so happy to see and access a large variety of books in a well organised library.”
I have discovered as a teacher that I still have a lot to do with my pupils concerning reading and other literacy activities. This event is a spring board for me.
– Mr Effa Joseph, Head Teacher, Government Bilingual Primary School.
“Some of the children who attended the event now come to the library after school. You can see the excitement in them as they read. Some even ask for books to read at home with their siblings.”
ETHIOPIA – Cheffe Donsa Community Library
“CODE Ethiopia‘s Cheffe Donsa Community Library supports a suburban community living about 57km outside Addis Ababa. While it is suburban, it needs further support and the community’s participation in the library is encouraging.
Our celebrations included poem presentations, reading testimonies by library users and contests between students.”
Our library set our community free from darkness. It is our university.
Students recited poetry, performed traditional adowa dances and recited books they have read. We also held a six-book challenge in the run up in which students read six books and had to summarise each. We awarded participating students at the ceremony.”
It’s been barely a week but more kids are visiting our library after the event and now parents are making it mandatory that they come to the library even if they cannot read with them at home.
– Koforidua Library
KENYA – knls Lusumu Community Library
“This year’s celebrations were held at knls Lusumu branch library in Kakamega County, Western Kenya. The library is situated in a village where people are predominantly crop farmers and some also rear animals. There is a lot of poverty here and parents are determined to educate their children. The library was opened in 2009 to support parents in this effort – and provide a resource centre for the whole community.
There were songs, a drama, speeches based on literacy celebration. The Kakamega County Governor HE Prof Philip Kutima urged Members of Parliament within the region to consider establishing libraries within their constituencies.”
Books were given to participating schools for their libraries and many of them acknowledged that they had very few supplementary reading books in their schools.
“Following the event we have had an increase in visits, more enquiries about our services, especially from schools who want to know how they can be involved in future library events and registering as institutional members.”
“Grace Rwanda‘s celebrations were held at both the Nyamagabe Youth Centre Library in Nyamagabe and Vision Jeunesse Nouvelle Library in Rubavu. Residents in Nyamagabe live on low income and are mostly farmers. The literacy rate is still moderate.”
“The ceremonies started with traditional dance to songs on the theme of reading and writing in different languages. There were speeches read aloud in Kinyarwanda, French and English. There were also spelling bees, reading aloud, debates and storytelling activities. We also had a display of donated books.
The event really helped promote the libraries and books to the wider communities.”
We were seeking books and we had to look elsewhere but now we have this library it will help us so much.
– Kagame Gad, Primary 6 student.
SIERRA LEONE – Sierra Leone Library Board HQ
“Sierra Leone Library Board’s Headquarters Library in Freetown is in a community dominated by workers, students and a few business people. The library accommodates users from all walks of life from toddlers to elderly people.
Our International Literacy Day activities included a story competition in local languages, a melodrama set to local songs and a demonstration of our French lessons for children. There was also a short skit entitled Had I Known about the importance of having reading and writing skills in your local language because you never know when you will need it. All competitions were also done in the local dialect.”
The celebration of this day each year has helped to raise awareness about reading.
SOMALILAND – Silanyo National Library
“The Silanyo National Library is in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. It’s the nation’s first national library and serves school pupils, teachers, university students and other members of the public.
Our International Literacy Day celebrations included a quiz for the school children covering science, geography and history in which they had to answer the questions in either Somali, Arabic or English.”
As a result of the celebrations, school teachers that attended have since decided to set a specific time for reading during their school hours.
TANZANIA – Tanga Regional Library
“Tanga Regional Library is a public library run by the Tanzania Library Services Board. The Tanga region is a coastal community where inhabitants mostly engage in fishing, crop cultivation and small-scale business. There is also an urban community of professionals and students.
Our International Literacy Day activities included a library tour, a spelling competition, a reading competition, and cultural entertainment. We also invited all audience members to select a book and read it for pleasure.
The day after the event, parents and teachers brought their children to the library to register for the book club and also to join as members.”
This is the most interesting educational programme I ever expected a local library could organise.
– Mrs Miriam Magambo, parent.
While reading is basic to learning it is also basic to survival. Lack of reading is disasterous because reading is a most efficient way of acquiring knowledge and a source of achieving sound development of our minds … A public library is a place designed to freely support the attainment of those purposes.
Abdulatif Famao, Torf Book Club CEO.
UGANDA – Nambi Sseppuuya Community Resource Centre
“The Nambi Sseppuuya Community Resource Centre is based in a rural community whose basic activity is subsistence farming. The centre is an inititative to contribute to the fight against poverty, illiteracy and disease through education and provision of reading materials.
Our activities on International Literacy Day included reading for pleasure, read alouds, storytelling, poem recitals, letter and reading games.”
The head teacher of a school just across the Nile River came back to the resource centre to thank us and to inform us that the children desired to visit the centre regularly.
“Many people who had not been to this resource centre are now visiting and calling up.”
ZAMBIA – Soloboni Primary School library
“Most of the community around this library are not in formal employment. Most of them are self-employed with no stable income.
Soloboni Primary School’s library serves both the learners and the surrounding community.
Zambia Library Service held a two day event at the school. On the first day schools competed against each other in reading competitions. On the second, pupils led a literacy parade which included a brass band and majorettes, plus book and poetry readings and debates. We also had a reading tent where young readers could enjoy books.”
There’s been an increase in the interest in books. The staff in charge of the reading tent were overwhelmed with the influx of children wanting to read.
ZANZIBAR – Unguja Public Library
“Community members’ activities in Unguja include small business, fishing and tourism. The library serves the general community from children to adults.
At Zanzibar Library Services’ celebrations we had a demonstration in which participants took slogans and pictures that promoted the culture of reading, there was a library tour and students performed a drama highlighting the importance of using the library. There was also drawing, a quiz and a book exhibition which included multilingual books that are essential for community development.”
As a result of the celebrations, many more children have been introduced to the library and the services it offers.
“The local community are now more ready to support the development of library services in Zanzibar.”
Our partners also held celebrations in the Gambia, Liberia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Meet Koffi and Cisco. Originally from the Ivory Coast and Cameroon respectively, they now they live in London, having had to leave their homes and loved ones behind.
They visited our warehouse to help stamp books to send to Syrian refugees in Lebanon. While they were here, they told us about what brought them to the UK, the Islington Centre for Refugees that helped them to settle in and why they think it’s important for displaced people to have access to brand new books.
What brought you to the UK?
Koffi: I’m here due to the social-political situation in my country, the Ivory Coast. It’s been getting worse since 1999. We had big trouble in 2010 after the election, then war in 2011. Next year we are going to election and the political situation is really tense. The population is tense too. We don’t know what will happen in 2020, the fight is tight between politicians. That is reason why I am here.
Cisco: I’m from Cameroon. I came here after I took part in a demonstration and after that I was caught in trouble in my country so I had to fly and I got here.
How has the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants helped you since you arrived?
Cisco: The centre helped me in so many ways. It helped me in my learning, to improve my English and my communication skills. I have been improving because we have some classes. You can have a one on one tutoring and this is meant to bring you up quickly.
Koffi: Really, if I want to say how this centre helped me it will take all your time! They built up who I am: my English skills, helped me with health and accommodation issues and reach some educational goals. The centre helped me [during] so many challenges and provided psychological support through activities such as art classes, reading, singing, outings and sport.
This centre is a kind of therapy for us.
Being a refugee is not something you decide.
You have to face so many problems. When we are completely broken, [we] just go to the centre with [a] friend and have fun, sing. [With the centre we can] share everything. It is home for us.
Do you think it is important to send books to refugee camps for people to read?
Cisco: When you have a book with you and you read that book, it pushes the boundaries. The camp is like a prison, you cannot go out. So when you have a book it gives you something to think, to imagine. As you are reading, you are free; you don’t see those boundaries. A book gives you a place to improve yourself and your knowledge and your thinking. And this why I think a book is so powerful.
When you are a refugee in a camp you’ve left your homeland, you left your culture, you left your home. You left so many things for another place and it is very, very, very traumatic.
A book can connect you with what you left; your culture, origin, homeland.
You can use it to get through – to have some hope.
Also, books help you to keep your mind engaged and to have some thoughts to improve yourself. Although you may be in a warzone, even in those times there is a need to improve.
Koffi: When you are in a refugee camp, book[s] are a priority to develop your skills, to help you keep connections with things you were forced to leave behind. They also provide an opportunity to build new ambitions, reach new goals and give hope for the future.
On Tuesday June 18th two refugees from the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants joined forces with UK charity Book Aid International, volunteering their time to stamp over 500 children’s books in Arabic to Syrian refugees sheltering in Jordan and over 100 additional books written by best-selling authors Sita Brahmachari and Onjali Q. Raúf to English speaking refugees in Africa.
Both have found that books and art have provided a positive outlet and helped them cope with the experience of displacement and were very pleased to be helping other displaced people access books.
Koffi is from Ivory Coast. He fled violence around the elections which took place in the country in 2010 and subsequent conflict in 2011. He spoke of the importance of access to book and learning saying:
“When you are in the camp, you left your homeland, your culture, so many things. It’s very traumatic. When you get a book, it can be a platform for you to connect to what you have left. And from this platform, you can get through. You can have some hope, some joy.”
Cisco also believes that people who have fled home must have the opportunity to read. He is from The Cameroon and was forced to leave after being part of a demonstration:
“When you have a book with you, it pushes the boundaries. The camp is as a prison – we cannot go out. So when you have a book, it gives you something to imagine. As you are reading, you are free and you don’t see those boundaries anymore. You are free in your mind.”
An estimated 1.3 million refugees live in Jordan and the Arabic books which Koffi and Cisco have stamped have been specially selected to support children’s reading and learning through NGO We Love Reading. The group works to instil a love of reading through read-aloud activities with trained volunteers. We Love Reading supports refugees in Jordan as part of its work and has so far served over 400,000 displaced children.
Sita Brahmachari’s books all tell empowering stories of people who have been displaced, providing hope for the future. They will reach South Sudanese refugees sheltering in Kenya and Uganda – including the world’s biggest refugee settlement, Bidi Bidi in Uganda.
Sita spoke of her feelings about knowing that the books she has written will reach refugees in Africa, saying: “I have written about many different aspects of refugee experience and the way in which people navigate their way through different societies. That books I’ve written may reach one of the children I have had in mind as I’ve written gives me great joy. I write for all children and hope my stories in these children’s hands may offer young readers a sense that their lives may progress…. so that they can dream, believe and imagine a kinder more humane and connected world.”
Book Aid International works for a world where no one is without the books that will enrich, improve and change their lives. The charity knows that books are at their most precious for those facing war and displacement.
Last year through the generosity of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, it made brand new, publisher donated books available to over 500,000 refugees in 16 refugee camps around the world. The Islington Centre for Refuges and Migrants has also been supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, who have helped fund the centre’s English as a Second Language and ICT courses.
Book Aid International warmly thanks Koffi and Cisco for their time, the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants for their inspiring work and Orion Children’s Books, Otter Barry Books and Barrington Stoke for generously donating Sita’s books.
Book Aid International is the UK’s leading international book donation and library development charity. Every year, the charity sends around one million brand new books to people around the world who would otherwise have very few opportunities to access books and read.
The books are read by people in all walks of life in thousands of libraries, schools, universities, hospitals and refugee camps. All of the books the charity sends are donated by UK publishers.
Book Aid International works with an extensive network of libraries, schools, hospitals, NGOs and other partners to ensure that the books it sends reach as many people as possible. The charity estimates that the books it provides reach 28 million people every year. In 2018, Book Aid International sent books to 16 refugee camps. www.bookaid.org
About the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants
The Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants works to create a strong, positive, community for people who have been displaced from their countries of origin due to persecution, war, and poverty. The charity works to create a sense of belonging and comfort for those who have left their homes, providing practical tools to help displaced people to rebuild their lives and linking asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants with local people to build a stronger community for everyone.
The Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants currently supports around 180 asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants each year. It’s clients are among the most disadvantaged, isolated and vulnerable people in London. Having fled persecution, human rights abuses, they are at risk of destitution, detention, and removal to the situation they fled.
About Sita Brahmachari
Sita Brahmachari won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize with her debut Artichoke Hearts and is one of the most interesting and important voices in children’s books today. Her latest novel, Tender Earth, is the UK IBBY Honour 2018 Nominee. She was the 2015 Booktrust’s Writer in Residence and is the current Writer in Residence at Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants. Sita is also an Amnesty International ambassador. She lives in London with her family.
About Onjali Q. Raúf
Onjali Q. Raúf is the founder of Making Herstory, an organisation mobilising men, women and children from all walks of life to tackle the abuse and trafficking of women and girls in the UK and beyond. In her spare time she delivers emergency aid convoys for refugee families surviving in Calais and Dunkirk, and supports interfaith projects. She specialised in Women’s Studies at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth and Oxford University. The Boy at the Back of the Class is her first novel. It is the winner of the Blue Peter Book Award 2019 and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019.
About People’s Postcode Lottery
People’s Postcode Lottery manages multiple society lotteries promoted by different charities and good causes. People play with their chosen postcodes for a chance to win cash prizes. A minimum of 32% from each subscription goes directly to charities and good causes across Great Britain and internationally — players have raised £438 million so far. For details of the charities and good causes which are promoting and benefitting from the lottery draws, please visit https://www.postcodelottery.co.uk/good-causes/draw-calendar
It costs £10 a month to play and winning postcodes are announced every day. The maximum amount a single ticket can win is 10% of the draw proceeds For details, please visit www.postcodelottery.co.uk/prizes
New players can sign up to pay using direct debit by calling 0808 10 9 8 7 6 5. New players who sign up online at www.postcodelottery.co.uk can pay using direct debit, debit card or PayPal.
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In Cameroon, what began as peaceful protests and strikes by lawyers and teachers more than two years ago has now degenerated into a situation which looks increasingly like war, with armed groups asking for an independent state. Dozens of villages have been burnt down and an estimated 300,000 people have fled in search of safety.
Books have a vital role to play in enabling children to keep learning when violence and displacement mean they can no longer attend formal education. Here, a partner in Cameroon shares how he plans to use books you have helped to send to give children displaced by recent conflict the chance to continue reading and learning.
How has the conflict affected children’s education in Cameroon?
Thousands of children and students in the two affected regions do not attend school because they are living in the forest with their parents. They are living without books, a classroom or any form of education or literacy programme going on.
Others who are in camps in neighbouring villages and towns have limited access to education because active fighting makes it impossible to attend school regularly. Even where the schools function there are significant gaps in teaching and learning materials. Out of school and with no education, children are at risk.
How can books help?
Books and access to education facilities will redirect the children’s energies away from these risks and towards education.
Despite the fact that these children have found themselves in a crisis situation they need to continue accessing books so they remain informed. Education is a human right and books will keep the education flame in the children alive ready for when things return to normal.
Living away from home or school and beginning a new life in the forest under very uncomfortable circumstances is very challenging and tough for the displaced children. Books can help them integrate into their new environments and deal with what they have been through.
We believe that we can give these children hope in a hopeless situation. Dreams should not end because there is strife and conflict, but unless we right the wrongs now for these children so they can learn today, there will be no tomorrow for them and their communities.
– A Bishop in Cameroon
How will you be using the books with displaced children?
Teachers and others are already doing some excellent work providing basic education and teaching for the children. Books from Book Aid International will be a boost to the standard of teaching at various centres for refugees. Being involved in fun activities with books will make life feel more exciting and normal for the children.
I will not be able to go back to my village and school which have been burnt down. The forest is now my home though there are no schools and books here. I still have hopes to go to school and read books again.
– Displaced child, Cameroon
Dreams should not end because of conflict. These children cannot postpone their futures because of war but with the right type of books and education provided them at this stage they can build a meaningful tomorrow.
Sadly, Cameroon is just one of many places across the world where children’s lives are affected by conflict. For many of them, access to education can become strained. Displacement often puts their education on an indefinite hiatus and for children who stay at home, violence can make it difficult to get to school regularly.
But conflict shouldn’t put children’s futures on hold. In fact, it is vital to ensure the next generation has the skills rebuild their countries or contribute to their new homes when they are older.
With your support we can send more books to help children in conflict zones continue to learn, dream and be inspired.
As the conflict in Cameroon intensifies, Book Aid International is working with its long-standing Cameroonian partners to provide books to the country’s displaced children. The charity will send 30 Pioneer Book Boxes full of 5,000 carefully selected, UK publisher donated books to six centres for people who have fled the violence in country’s Anglophone North West and South West regions.
What began as peaceful protests and strikes by lawyers and teachers more than two years ago has now degenerated into a situation which looks increasingly like war, with armed groups asking for an independent state. Dozens of villages have been burnt down and an estimated 300,000 people have fled in search of safety.
Thousands of children are taking shelter in Cameroon’s forested areas with their families, living a life without books, without classrooms and without any form of formal education. Others who are in refugee camps in neighbouring villages have limited access to education because active fighting makes it impossible to attend school regularly. One young girl who lives with her family in the forest spoke of what her life is like and her hopes: “I will not be able to go back to my village and school which have been burnt down. The forest is now my home though there are no schools and books here. I still have hopes to go to school and read books again.”
Schools have been a target for violence and a network of churches and NGOs are fighting to educate Cameroon’s displaced children. One Bishop involved in these efforts spoke about the importance of education: “We believe that we can give these children hope in a hopeless situation. Dreams should not end because there is strife and conflict, but unless we right the wrongs now for these children so they can learn today, there will be no tomorrow for them and their communities. Education is every child’s basic human right and we are committed to giving it to them.”
The books that Book Aid International will provide will give these inspiring individuals the tools they need to help displaced children learn. The 30 Pioneer Book Boxes the charity is sending are filled with books selected to support the education of displaced Cameroonian children as well as a printed manual to support educators, offering advice on reading activities. Each box can be moved from place to place as the needs of displaced people change, ensuring that whatever the future holds children will still be able to read, to learn and to escape into a great story.
Book Aid International’s Chair, Lord Paul Boateng, spoke of the charity’s determination to reach those fighting for education in Cameroon and expressed its thanks to all of those who have made this very special donation possible: “Cameroon is currently in the midst of a deadly internal conflict. Our local partners are facing real hardship with great fortitude, and we are so pleased to be able to help. We are only able to reach out through the support of volunteers, individuals, UK publishers, trust funders and players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Thanks to their generosity and our intrepid local partners, books will reach thousands of people – providing an escape through the written word from the horrors of what is increasingly resembling a civil war.”
The 5,000 books that Book Aid International is sending to Cameroon are part of its wider work reaching out to conflict-affected communities, providing the books that people living with daily violence need to continue their education and imagine a better tomorrow. The charity aims to expand this work and is appealing for support. To find out more or get involved, visit www.bookaid.org.
Notes for editors
For further information and comment please Jenny Hayes, Communications Executive at Book Aid International or Emma Taylor, Head of Communications at Book Aid International.
Book Aid International Chair Lord Paul Boateng is available for comment. Lord Boateng has a long-standing commitment to development in Africa. As the UK Prime Minister’s Special Representative he was instrumental in Gordon Brown’s work to deliver the Africa Commission report in 2005, which included advocating increased support for Africa’s development. He was High Commissioner to South Africa from 2005-2009 and is today involved in a wide range of charitable and business organisations working to realise the potential of Africa.
About Book Aid International
Book Aid International is the UK’s leading international book donation and library development charity. Every year, the charity sends around one million brand new books to people around the world who would otherwise have very few opportunities to access books and read.
Book Aid International works with an extensive network of libraries, schools, hospitals, NGOs and other partners to ensure that the books it sends reach as many people as possible. The charity estimates that the books it provides reach 24 million people every year.
Book Aid International has worked with partners in Cameroon since 1962. In addition to donating brand new books to support readers of all ages and stages in public libraries, the charity has created welcoming spaces for young readers in libraries through its Children’s Corner Programme and also supplies books to support schools and higher education institutions across the country.
About People’s Postcode Lottery
People’s Postcode Lottery is a lottery operator in which people play with their postcodes to win cash prizes, while raising money for charities and good causes across Great Britain and globally
A minimum of 32% from each subscription goes directly to charities, and players have raised £350 million for good causes so far
Last month, our partners across 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa celebrated International Literacy Day and the power of reading with some of the communities they work in.
From Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania’s bustling capital city to remote, rural Zimbabwe, hundreds of school children took part in reading and spelling competitions, performed marches, dances, songs and dramas, gave presentations and speeches and engaged in debates.
Local dignitaries and government officials attended as did local and national media, teachers, parents, publishers and writers as well as members of the wider communities. And all with the aim of promoting reading and raising the profile of libraries and the services they offer.
As part of the celebrations, each partner gave out 600 brand new, inspiring books that you have helped to send as prizes for participants and for schools to add to their library collections. Our hope is that these books will enable children to continue to enjoy reading long after the excitement of the celebrations have faded.
Occasions like International Literacy Day provide the perfect opportunity to promote reading and literacy. Find out more about some of our partners’ celebrations below.
Celebrations took place at EISERVI’s library in Cameroon’s capital city Yaoundé.
Once the day’s celebrations were over, children who had never visited EISERVI’s library before were keen to return as soon as they could:
Aunty, I like your library and I would like to come here and read after school. Can I?
– Wenyi Favour, Government Primary School.
In Zimbabwe, Edward Ndlovu Memorial Trust took their celebrations to Selonga Primary School’s community library in rural Gwanda where pupils from neighbouring schools as well as their parents and the wider community joined them.
In addition to competitions, performances and presentations by the children, older people from the community read short stories and spoke of how literacy has enabled them to better their own lives and the lives of their families.
Being literate is important for everyone, young and old. In this fast-changing world, being illiterate will make you lose out on a lot of things – even being in touch with the larger outside world.
– Mrs Mathe.
Kenya National Library Service’s celebrations focused on Kwale branch library. Kwale County has the second highest rate of poverty in the country and a large percentage of school drop outs. This event was a great opportunity to promote reading and the library as a means of learning outside of formal education.
It changed the way I thought about reading. I thought reading was only for academic purposes …
– Benjamin Wabwire, teacher.
Our partner CODE Ethiopia celebrated International Literacy Day at Ejere Community Library in rural Ejere town.
Becoming a reader is a must.
– Tsige, teacher.
Apart from serving the local community, I myself have got a lot that changed my life from this library.
– Lemma Kefeni, retired teacher and former librarian.
The Sierra Leone Library Board marked International Literacy Day with an event at their headquarters library in Freetown.
There was huge excitement among the children that attended – for many of them it was the first time they had participated in an event like this.
This year, the Library and Information Association of Eritrea held their celebrations at six public and community libraries across the Maekel, South and Anseba regions. This included two prisons where inmates gave speeches about the importance of reading in their lives. One 92-year-old female prisoner spoke about how she had completed first grade for the first time and is now preparing to enter second grade:
I will keep reading until my eyes no longer allow me to do so.
Grace Rwanda celebrated International Literacy Day at Ineza Children’s Corner in the Shyorongi Sector of the Northern Province.
The library has already seen an increase in visits from children and schools as a result of the event.
There are books we needed but couldn’t find them and we had limited books but now these books are here, we will read them much!
– Byaruhanga Moses, a pupil at GS Rwisirabo
International Literacy Day celebrations were also held by our partners in Liberia, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zanzibar.
Thanks to your support over 123,000 children in under-resourced primary schools in five African countries will soon be enjoying brand new books in class as part of our Inspiring Readers school library programme!
Each participating school has received a Book Box Library packed with brand new UK donated books plus local language titles and teacher training in using books in the classroom. Schools are also connected to a local public library which has a thriving Children’s Corner where children can access more books, reading activities and the expertise of professional librarians.
In addition to Cameroon, Kenya and Malawi, Inspiring Readers is now up and running in Uganda and the programme has also just launched in Sierra Leone.
Librarians at the five hub libraries participating in Inspiring Readers Sierra Leone have just attended training. They are now leading workshops with 75 teachers from 25 schools to show them how to manage their Book Box Libraries and introduce children to the joy of reading.
Once the workshops are complete, the schools will receive their Book Box Libraries, giving children the chance to read for pleasure in school, some for the very first time. Many of them do not have books at home.
The impact of having brand new books in classrooms is already beginning to show. Our recent evaluation of the 2016 Inspiring Readers pilot in Kenya found that almost all participating schools have seen an increase in pupil attainment since their libraries opened.
Inspiring Readers has been so popular in Kenya and Malawi that the programme is being expanded in both countries to reach more schools and readers. Pupils at 25 more schools in Kenya are now enjoying brand new books and the programme will expand into 25 further schools in Malawi in October 2018.
Next, we hope to expand the programme to Zanzibar.
We would like to thank players of People’s Postcode Lottery who have funded Inspiring Readers in Kenya, Malawi and Sierra Leone and the trusts, companies and individuals who have supported the programme in Uganda and Cameroon.