Tag Archives: COVID-19

Fight for Futures: Behind the Scenes

Growing up in Ghana, Nana’s childhood was shaped by the use of books from the Ghana Library Authority.

Years later, now an adult, Nana’s path crossed with the Ghana Library Authority again, as he became the photographer for our appeal shot in Ghana this winter. Whilst capturing the images, we spoke to Nana about his views on the library service, why education is so important and how he thinks books can shape lives.

“The young people I photographed reminded me of my own journey. For them, this is a critical moment, their life is in the balance. That’s why libraries are crucial at this time because once you teach a person to read and give them the right access to the right material, anything is possible.

Their life is in the balance

 

For me, the library became a refuge of thought. If I didn’t have access to the library, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Now, I am an empowered African man, I can travel the world, I have a good job, I can provide books for my children myself. But if it wasn’t for the library when I was growing up, none of that could have been possible. Books are equalisers, so anyone who supports an organisation like Book Aid Internaitonal is creating an equal world.”

When you give to Book Aid International, you are giving not just to one generation or one person, but you’re giving to this generation and the next and the next. That is the power of books.

Thanks to Nana for providing us with a collection of images that demonstrate the power of books for students in Ghana and for sharing his story with us. 

 

Education for Eunice

The pandemic disrupted all of our lives, including 17-year-old Eunice who couldn’t attend her school or local library during lockdown.

Below, Eunice explains how her life changed this year, and how when supporters like you donate to Book Aid International, you could help her pursue a brighter future.

“My mum sells porridge in the market to support my education but this year has been bad for business. The challenge is to change the life of my family. I want to study hard, look after my parents and put them in a higher position. To do this, I need books. Please send more books, especially revision guides.”

I want to study hard and look after my parents.

Eunice wants to study but struggles with the few textbooks she has at home

 

She enjoys reading after she’s helped her Mother at the local market

 

The pandemic forced Eunice to go into lockdown

 

“During lockdown, I helped my mum in the day and studied at night. I only have four textbooks at home so I couldn’t learn properly. My dream is to go to University and be a surgeon because a family tragedy inspired me to help people when I am older.”

I only have four textbooks at home.

With your support, we can provide students like Eunice with brand new, up to date books. Together, we can help these students fight for their futures and unlock their potential through the power of books.

 

George’s Story

This month, we are shining a light on the young people whose studies have been interrupted by the pandemic this year. One of those students is 16 year old George Osafo, who lives in Ghana.

George usually studies at his school library, but from May to October it was closed due to the virus.

“The pandemic affected me greatly because I feel like I am behind at school, and that makes me sad. But I am hopeful because I can now study in the library and have access to books again.”

The pandemic affected me greatly.

Geroge usually studies in the school library

With the library closed and no books at home, George was left at a loss – unable to pursue his dreams and anxious about his future.

I once read a book about electrical engineering and how it improved the world. If it wasn’t for the library I wouldn’t have found out about this career path.

George has no books at home, so when the library closed he was at a loss

As schools and libraries around the world open up once again, students are hopeful they can continue to work towards a brighter future, but Goerge still worries that his younger siblings will be left without books if they cannot access a library.

“If you cannot read, you cannot lead. Readers are leaders. I wish more books would come in so my younger siblings can also get access.”

With your support, we can continue to send brand new up to date books to those who need them most, including educational books to Ghana for students like George.

 

Meet Maame

When the pandemic forced Ghana’s schools and libraries to close, it was devastating for young people like Maame. She worried that without the opportunity to read and learn, her future would be put at risk.

Maame is 17 and lives in Koforidua, Ghana. She told us she has high ambitions and dreams of being a Lawyer. 

Being a lawyer has always been my dream. I want to be a voice for the voiceless and to defend their rights.

Maame uses the books in her local library to study for her exams

Maame also explained how going to the library to read books when she was younger was the gateway to her dreams.

My mum would bring me to the library, since then I’ve been reading storybooks, books about law and textbooks. It’s really helped me a lot.

Maame often helped in her mum’s shop during the pandemic

 

For Maame and many other students, lockdown provided challenging circumstances to study. In addition, as Covid worsens poverty, girls are most at risk of never returning to school, forced instead to take on extra care-giving responsibilities or begin working.

“Because of lockdown I haven’t read enough books. There are a lot of distractions at home and I have few books.”

But with help from our supporters, Book Aid International aims to send 115,000 more books to Ghana next year, reaching thousands of young people like Maame who need access to books to pursue their dreams.

 

Education in Africa: Back to the classroom

While students across the UK returned to school this autumn, we took a look at how back-to-school initiatives are progressing in Africa.

Even before the global pandemic hit, only 17.8% of households in Africa had internet access at home, so the option of home learning was limited. This is one of the reasons why news of back to school plans have been so warmly welcomed.

Kenya’s Education Minister officially stated that schools in Kenya were to reopen on the 12th of October for selected year groups. All students are expected to adhere to the mandatory use of facemasks and monitoring of body temperatures, and where there is no running water, schools will use hand sanitiser. In addition, a section of universities and colleges reopened on 5th October as part of a slow return to higher education. 

 

Students before lockdown at a school library in Kakuma, Kenya

Although physical distancing remains a challenge, the Kenyan Minister said that this shouldn’t be used as an excuse to keep any child away from school. 

It’s good news from Gambia too. The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education has declared the opening of secondary schools in the Gambia from the 14th of October, again to selected year groups. Students at primary level and in nursery have also been asked to return to school on the 28th of October, 2020.

Image of a school in Zambia, before COVID-19

In Zambia, the President acknowledged the negative effects closing of schools had on students, acknowledging that the introduction of virtual learning platforms only benefited a few pupils while many were left out. Therefore, under strict health measures, schools resumed school learning from July.

Despite a lot of positivity, across this region nearly 65 million children remain out of school, and around one in two of those are not reached by any form of learning. It’s for this reason that it’s more important than ever we continue to find ways to help children in the most disadvantaged communities gain access to books. 

 

“When I read I forget about the bad things that have happened”

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.

Books in Cameroon, ready to be created into Pioneer Book Boxes

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.

Child reading a book from a Pioneer Book Box (image from Kenya for safety reasons)

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.

More books for medical students in Malawi

With around 300 students to teach, lecturer Prisca tells us how books donated by Book Aid International impact lives for those at St John of God College of Health and Science in Malawi.

Healthcare in Malawi is under constant strain, with the threat of HIV, malaria, TB and many more diseases the daily norm. Add to this the pressure of Covid-19 and you have a healthcare system stretched to its limit.

With very few doctors and poorly established community-level health services, it can be hard for patients to get the care needed. That’s why Prisca and many other lecturers believe in empowering communities at the grassroots, to create the next generation of health professionals in Malawi.

But for lecturers like Prisca, educating her students provides its own range of challenges.

I think most colleges have libraries, but the standard of the books was not up to date. 1993, 1992, they were old books.

Without up to date information, students are taught outdated content, which continues to hinder healthcare development in Malawi, and for Prisca, it doesn’t stop there.

Libraries are small, and students many.

Students sharing a book at the college library back when it was still open

With such few books, students often have to share between sixty of their peers, loaning for an hour or so before they need to pass it on.

At Book Aid International, we believe every student should have the right to quality information. That’s why, with your support we’ve been able to send a total of 4,708 books to date to St John of God College of Health Sciences in Malawi, allowing all students to access up-to-date information.

With more books available, students can take books out of the library and have access to quality information both at home and on campus, something which remains critical to learning during Covid-19.

Lecturer teaching students before lockdown

Without this service, students this semester are unlikely to graduate, leading to a potential shortage of doctors and nurses in the coming years.

2020 without Book Aid International? It would have been a disaster. They would have even less information and both teachers and students would have had problems accessing information. So, the value of the books we receive is priceless. It really helps us to do our job and for the students to learn.

Books have made a huge difference to both teaching and learning in Malawi. It’s with your help that we can continue to send up to date and relevant information to schools and colleges like this one.

 

School work Cameroon

“I was so happy because I could read again”

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.

Cameroon forest
Conflict in Cameroon has forced many people to flee their homes and seek shelter in forests

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.

Pioneer Book Box
Children using a Pioneer Book Box in Kenya (Cameroon photo not used for safety)

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.

*Name has been changed.

Reading in Dandora community centre

A place to read during lockdown

The Dandora slum in Nairobi, Kenya, sits on the edge of one of the world’s largest landfill sites. It is home to some 141,000 people who, like the rest of Kenya, are having to largely stay at home due to lockdown measures imposed because of Covid-19.

 

For the children and young people living in Dandora, there is often little space and few resources or books at home for them to continue learning while their schools are closed.

So local NGO DADREG (Dandora Dumpsite Rehabilitation Group) which operates a centre in the middle of Dandora has opened its doors during lockdown to provide children with safe a place to read and learn using the books supporters like you help to send.

Here, DADREG’s Director, George Onyango and Catherine, a student who regularly uses the centre, tell us more:

DADREG's centre
DADGREG’s centre in the middle of Dandora is providing local children with a place to read and learn during lockdown (photo taken before Covid-19)

George

“The closure of schools and colleges has come with challenges for young girls and boys, especially those living in slums. Their homes are often not conducive for studying and they are looking for spaces to do their studies and be taught.

Also, idleness is leading to early pregnancies for girls and for boys, joining gangs. Some research has shown that since the pandemic, in Nairobi alone, over 12,000 schoolgirls have become pregnant and this worries us a lot.

This is the reason why we have opened up our centre – to allow young girls to access reading materials and do their studies.

This is the reason why we have opened up our centre – to allow young girls to access reading materials and do their studies. DADREG is providing a refuge to the girls and young boys. We are of course practising social distancing.

What we are doing is that those young men and women that DADREG has supported and continue to support in colleges and universities come to the centre to teach the children. The young men and women are acting as mentors to the primary and secondary school students and it is really helping them.”

Reading in the DADREG centre
Many children, especially girls, are coming to DADREG’s centre every day to use books, read and study

Catherine

“Since schools were closed on 16th March, I have had a lot of free time to catch up on where I was left behind. Though I have not had ample time to study at home.

But by coming to DADREG to study, I have been able to carefully manage my work schedule. I am able to conduct personal studies here as well as useful group discussions. Here I am also able to attend some online lessons which is not really possible at home.

Being able to access books and read while my school is closed has been really helpful.

Being able to access books and read while my school is closed has been really helpful. This will help me to improve my grades because I am able to cover a lot in my study areas. Reading and studying at DADREG will surely be fruitful when I get back to school.

I’ve also been reading a storybook called Once Upon a Twist. It is a great way to relax my mind after a long day of endless studying. The book has also given me the challenge to improve my creativity. It is written in a fashionably creative form making it have much suspense.

I really appreciate the books that Book Aid International has sent to us students!”

 

*Header photo taken prior to lockdown restrictions

 

Reading in school

Tuning back into school with books

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.

Irene
Irene

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.”