Tag Archives: education

The difference a book can make

Violet Lenger-Fofanah lives in Sierra Leone and runs a small charity that supports people living in poverty. She told us how the pandemic has affected the children she works with and why she believes books can change lives.

“In my role, I have seen so many children transform their futures through reading. More than half of families here face a daily struggle to make ends meet, and many schools have nowhere near enough teachers or even the most basic resources.

Violet supports the children in the local school with their reading

But it is my passion to make sure children get a good education – and by partnering with Book Aid International I can send books to schools and help create libraries too. Sometimes a single book is all it takes to fire a child’s imagination. You see their eyes light up. Instead of needing to share a book with other children, they can lose themselves in the pages, reading at the pace that’s right for them.

Sometimes a single book is all it takes to fire a child’s imagination.

But as the coronavirus pandemic forced schools here in Sierra Leone to close for nine long months, huge numbers of children had the magic of books stolen away from them. With their lessons stopped, children who dreamed of becoming the first nurse or doctor or lawyer in their families suddenly had to put those dreams on hold. We can’t let all that potential be lost, we need more books to help young people dream again.

My favourite thing is seeing children happy, able to go to school and progressing with their schoolwork. Education takes you where you’ve never been. It creates dreams then turns those dreams into reality. It can change the future not only of a single child but of whole communities, even whole countries. Books can help them decide who they want to be and gain the knowledge they need to follow their dreams. That’s how much difference a book can make.”

Hope for the future

At Book Aid International, we work with a range of people in all kinds of situations that mean they don’t have access to books. This includes working with correctional facilities, juvenile offender centres, women skills centres and vulnerable youth centres in Zambia.

The books sent are key to helping young people in these centres engage in education. Many of them are from poor social-economic backgrounds, so gaining access to books at this moment in their lives can make a huge difference to their future.

“The books you have donated to our facility have really added value to my life. They’ve given me hope for the future.”

Allen enjoys spending time reading every day

 

In total, six facilities have received 6421 books so far, helping hundreds of young people gain vital skills; from self-sufficiency to theoretical knowledge, business and creative skills.

 “Not having these books would mean I wouldn’t be able to sit my exams and find a proper job”.

Since the books arrived in these centres, enrolment in literacy classes has gone up. Not only has there been a 76.3% increase in men and women sitting their local exams, but also the number of people passing GCSE’s has gone from zero to 172.

While speaking to Allen, an inmate at Mumbwa Correctional Facility, he told us how he’s hugely benefited from the books sent.

“I now spend most of my time reading, the books have opened my mind. Thank you for the knowledge which you have brought to us”.

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.

 

Donkey library

Getting books to rural communities

We are proud to support libraries in a range of environments across sub-Saharan Africa, including some that are so remote that they are inaccessible by motor vehicles.

Dr Obadiah Moyo, founder of the Rural Libraries & Resources Development Programme (RLRDP), shares how his organisation is transporting brand new books, donated by Book Aid International, to some of Zimbabwe’s most remote communities using donkey libraries.

 

The organisation I founded (RLRDP) establishes and supports libraries in rural communities here in Zimbabwe, many of which experience extreme poverty. Work is in short supply and those who do work are often farm workers or miners, barely earning enough money to keep their families fed.

“We believe that to pull these rural communities out of poverty we need to surround children with books and knowledge, and give them the tools they need to improve their lives.”

Reaching these communities can be challenging – some we reach by truck, some by bicycle and some, the most rural, by donkey. Donkeys are used in Zimbabwe in many ways, from getting children to school to fetching water, and many years ago I asked myself ‘why can’t we use them to get books into schools’?

 

Queen's Mine Primary

 

In 1995 I piloted the first donkey-drawn mobile cart library and I’m proud that today we have 15 carts delivering books to rural schools. Each cart can carry up to 1,200 books and the majority of these are provided by Book Aid International.

The donkeys are donated by members of the community, and villagers actually compete to ensure their donkeys are used because they know they are advancing education within their local community, and this brings prestige.

The evidence of this advancement is clear for all to see. In one school we support, Inyathi Secondary School, a strong reading culture has developed among students and O-Level pass rates have soared, from just 6% in 2009 to 75% last year! Children who use the library every day are now dreaming of their future careers and opportunities.

 

Amanda at Inyathi

 

When the cart is approaching a school, the excitement from the children is wonderful to see as they rush out to greet it. But it isn’t simply a case of unloading the cart and moving on. The cart stays for the whole day; the children explore the books, sharing what they’ve read, and local storytellers from the community come to bring stories to life. It really is a day to spread the concept of reading and to develop the reading culture we are all working towards.

The books that Book Aid International send are far ranging – from phonics books to help children learn to read, to educational books which help them pass their exams and storybooks to inspire a lifelong love of reading – but what they all have in common is that they can help to improve the lives of the children living in Zimbabwe’s rural communities.

 

Emhlangi Primary School

 

Find out more about our work in Zimbabwe and the mobile libraries we support below.