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.
Yosef, 8, lives in Beit Furik, a small town in the West Bank, Occupied Palestinian Territories. Beit Furik sits just outside the city of Nablus, but the on-going political instability in in the West Bank means that there is a military checkpoint between Beit Furik and Nablus. The checkpoint closes regularly and when it is shut children who attend Nablus schools cannot attend, parents cannot go to work and even emergency services cannot get through.
These closures are disruptive and upsetting for all of Beit Furik’s residents, but particularly for children like Yosef. In these challenging circumstances, the town’s library provides a safe, welcoming place for Yosef and other children to read and learn. Local librarians use the books we send to run enriching activities which help the children deal with their upset and frustration with the difficulties the checkpoint causes.
Here Yosef tells us how he feels about his local library.
I live an hour away from Beit Furik. I walk all the way from my house to school and from school to the library. It’s a tiring distance, but I like to come to the library to read books. It’s a good place for reading because it is quiet. We also do activities. Today the librarian read a story for us [Winnie the Witch’s Amazing Pumpkin] and we had a discussion about it. Then we drew pictures imagining what we would turn pumpkins into. I drew a house.
When I am older, I want to be an architect because I like drawing. Books will help me become an architect because they help me to think in different ways and give me ideas about drawings.
I like reading English books because I also want to learn English. I want a good grade in English at school – you need high grades for engineering. My favourite book is Tanino Elkhafi [Disappearing Tanino]. It’s about a boy who has to memorise something to say in class but he can’t remember it. So he wishes he would disappear and he does.
Books also taught me about justice. I read about a book about two boys who hit an old woman and how she sought justice. If I didn’t have access to books, I’d never have learned justice.
This is the first in a series of blogs from the children of Beit Furik and we look forward to sharing more of their stories soon.
We are committed to supporting pupils struggling to learn in under-resourced schools, so we are proud to be working with International Development Partnerships (IDP), an NGO supporting rural communities in the poorest parts of Ethiopia to overcome poverty and build a brighter future. IDP focuses on improving both the quality of education children receive and children’s access to school. A key part of this is working with schools to improve the level of English language teaching.
The brand new books we have sent to IDP will give teachers the resources to support their English Language teaching and children with the opportunity to practise their English in and outside the classroom as well as learn about the world around them and grow a love of reading. This blog, the first of a series provided by IDP, shares the story of Tefere, librarian at Walia Primary School in northern Ethiopia.
Tefere is the proud librarian overseeing the school library at Walia Primary School. The school is located in Debark, a town in the Amhara region in northern Ethiopia. It has been described as the poorest region in Africa.
Unlike many school libraries in the area, Tefere’s library is built with bricks and has a sealed, tiled floor (many school libraries are made of wood and mud and have unsealed floors). The space is open, bright and filled with tables and chairs provided by IDP. Children quietly study and read alone or in small groups, using the library to do homework, revise or read for pleasure.
Tefere’s pride over his library is evident: the books are well organised, the space is always clean and he keeps detailed records of who uses the library and what they read. His love for the library has spilled over to the pupils who treat each other, the library space and the books with respect.
The books you have helped to send are very popular with the pupils. They love the bright illustrations and the chance to read about such a wide range of topics. Books on science, animals and space are particular favourites and they are even enticing children to read English books in their spare time:
Me and my friend are going to read the new books. We don’t have class this afternoon so we are going to the library.
It’s not only the pupils at the school that are flourishing with access to books. Tefere is also using them to read, learn and become a better support to the pupils in the school:
I am so lucky to have the chance to read while I am in the library, to change my life for the better. I like to read history books. I’ve learned so much more about history and then help the students with their questions.
Over the past ten years, Ethiopia has made real achievements in poverty reduction, particularly in child mortality rates and access to clean water. However, very high levels of rural poverty continue and drought and food scarcity pose ongoing threats to rural communities throughout the country.
Huge strides have also been made in education; primary enrolments have quadrupled over the last two decades. However many schools are overcrowded and poorly resourced, with few or no supplementary books for children to read. According to government policy, education beyond primary is in English. It is therefore imperative for pupils to have a good grasp of English while in primary school so they can continue their education. Yet the scarcity of resources means that children often have little exposure to English outside the classroom.
We are proud to work with IDP to support people like Tefere and his pupils as part of our wider efforts to ensure that children in Ethiopia have books that will enrich, improve and change their lives.
Learn more about our work in Ethiopia and our work to support children’s education across Africa using the links below.
Sarah Ogembo is 27 and is already Head of Kenya National Library Service (knls) Kisii branch library in Kenya. Her library is part of ourInspiring Readers thanks to funds from Players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Our school library programme and our Education Project Officer Ashleigh met Sarah while facilitating the librarian training as part of the programme. Ashleigh also witnessed Sarah putting her new skills into practice, training teachers and head teachers from local primary schools in Kisii. Ashleigh caught up with Sarah to find out how she got to where she is today.
Who is Sarah Ogembo?
I am a 27 year old lady that loves her job! The main things that typify me are that I am very passionate about children, I cannot stand injustice and I always try to be a very happy person. Professionally speaking, I would classify myself as an information provider. I chose this career path because I think that each and every person should have access to information to make positive changes to society – and these changes are cultural, social, economic and political. I believe that the role of libraries is to change the world one person at a time through access to information through books.
How did you get to where you are today?
When I was growing up, my mother worked at the Ministry of Land. The community library was opposite my mother’s ministry. We went there when my mum went to work and we stayed all day during the holidays until she came to collect us. I loved reading the books – I would read the whole shelf from left to right. I was lucky that my secondary school had a very good library with a lovely young librarian who was very good at her job.
When I got to university I really knew what I wanted to do. I studied library and information science and I picked this course because it was relevant to my strengths and passions. I attended the University of Kenyatta and I was there for four years. They had a very good library which I used all the time. Once I graduated and started looking for a job, I applied to work at knls and once I was successful, I was sent to Kisii straight away.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
The daily interaction with lots of different people, especially the children. Seeing the ones that come in to the library to do an assignment but can’t afford to buy
the course book, they come in and use it in the library. This is one of my favourite things about this job.
Tell us about your work with Book Aid International
Since working at Kisii, I was invited into the partnerships that knls have with other organisations. I know that as an organisation we cannot do everything, so it is useful to work with other stakeholders. With Book Aid International in particular, I have worked on the Inspiring Readers programme as Kisii library is one of the hub libraries in the first ever tranche of the programme. The local schools involved have now become institutional members and the children are really enjoying their new books.
The relationship between our library and the teachers and head-teachers from the local schools have been strengthened and I think the schools will really benefit from the programme. My role within this programme is to act as a link between the schools and Kisii library. We are now monitoring what is happening and we are guiding and training the teachers to ensure that the children get the most out of their new resources.
How do you see the role that libraries can play in the development of Kenyan society?
There has been a big change in libraries from when I was a kid to now in terms of the advancement of technology. The primary role of the library might not change – every person should have access to resources to make sure their literacy levels are increased. But the resources and how we access them will change in the future. Libraries have a big role to play in helping people adapt to future societies, but with the same age old common goal.
Our partner Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) provides quality schooling and education for children who cannot attend government schools. Often, children in Zambia miss out on their opportunity to attend government school, either because the nearest school is too far away or because their families cannot afford school uniforms or exercise books. We partner with them in this work by donating brand new books to ensure community schools have libraries that are well stocked with new and relevant books. Cleo Muma, Programme and Advocacy Manager at ZOCS tells us how the books are used in the schools and the difference they make to the students.
Kububa Community School is located in Mayukwayukwa Refugee Camp in Kaoma District in the Western Province of Zambia. The school has a total of 544 learners, both boys and girls. The school has 12 untrained Community School teachers, four classrooms and currently caters for Early Childhood Education through to grade 7.
In Zambia, English is taken as a subject in early grades and young children are taught in their local language, which in this area is Lozi. From Grade 5 onwards though, English becomes the language of instruction in almost all subjects so it’s important that learners are slowly introduced to English during their education up to this point. Unless this happens, the transition to English as the language of instruction can be very challenging and it’s a time when many children drop out of school.
Until recently, Kububa Community School lacked the appropriate learning materials to introduce children in early grades to English and as a result learners had little understanding of English when they had to make the full transition in Grade 5.
In 2015, Kububa Community School’s dream of improving their literacy levels came to reality when Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) visited the school and distributed books from Book Aid International. The books are colourful, simple phonics books, designed to help young readers learn the basics of spelling and building words in English. By using these simple books, children were able to identify, sound out, read and write simple words in English after just a term in school.
“Phonics provides the key that unlocks the mystery of reading and education is the greatest equaliser in life” says Dorcus, who is one of the children at Kububa Community School.
Teachers are now encouraging children to apply themselves to their reading. They give prizes such as sweets or even applause from the rest of the class for children who are making the most effort to improve in their reading.
“Children need to have a good grasp of phonics in order to learn to read and write. They need to know their letter sounds and how to segment and blend. Phonics teaching has proved to be easier than the schemes we were using before. We thank Book Aid International and ZOCS who have deliberately chosen to complement Government efforts of improving literacy levels in all communities.” Mr. Chikwekwe, Refugee Camp Co-ordinator.
Kububa Community School students are now some of the most confident, vibrant and enthusiastic children in the district and their literacy rates have improved greatly.
We are proud to be able to support ZOCS in their important work to bring education to vulnerable children in Zambia. Last year we sent 28,505 new books to ZOCS for use in schools. You can find out more about our work with ZOCS in this short film or by reading Cleo’s story of her work with the organisation.