Tag Archives: Ethiopia

Zanzibar ILD

Speaking up for reading

In September, our partners in fifteen African countries held celebrations to mark International Literacy Day.

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 ILD participants


“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.

– An elderly participant.

GHANA  – Eastern Regional Library

Ghana Library Authority‘s celebrations were held at our Eastern Regional Library in the city of Koforidua.

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


Somaliland ILD


“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.

Ejere library Book Haven

Book Havens for Ethiopia

In 2018 we worked with CODE Ethiopia to pilot Book Havensa new way of creating spaces for children’s reading – in five community libraries in rural and slum areas of Ethiopia.

The project aimed to support the development of the children’s services offered by the community libraries by refurbishing a space in the library for children to use, training staff in working with children and providing brand new printed children’s books and two tablets per library pre-loaded with local content.

Read the report in full here.

About Book Havens

Our Book Havens project aims to work with partners to create places where children can read in community-run and informal libraries as well as non-library spaces. The project was also piloted in Nairobi, Kenya. Find out more here.

Key findings

  • Increase in child visits

Libraries reported an increase in the number of child visits thanks to the presence of brand new books to explore and a child-friendly space to read them in for the first time.

  • Libraries are engaging more children in reading

Following the training (attended by two members of staff from each community library) the libraries now offer a range of book-related activities for children. This includes read-alouds, singing, poetry and drawing.

  • Local schools are making more use of the library

Libraries are now loaning books in bulk to local schools to use in class as well as receiving visits from classes in the Book Haven and running activities for them.

Special thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery who generously funded Book Havens for Ethiopia.

ILD celebrations in Cameroon

Celebrating literacy across Africa!

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.

The scene is set for celebrations in Tanzania


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.


Reading competition reader
A pupil in Kenya takes part in a reading competition


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.


Giving out awards
A young reader is awarded a prize at EISERVI’s celebrations in Cameroon

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.

Cameroon students
Secondary school students show off their prizes and book donation for their school library

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.

Reading competition
School children perform at Kenya National Library Service’s celebrations in Kwale


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.


Sierra Leone

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.



Tanzania Library Services Board’s celebrations took place at their Central Library in Dar es Salaam.




The event included speeches from a variety of people highlighting the importance of reading:

Look how amazing it is that reading brings people together.

– Ms Latifah Miraji, Soma Book Café, local NGO.

Do not use your smart phones to serve only films or music, rather use it to download books of your desire. Read them, understand them and let them bridge your knowledge gap.

– Aneth Amos, pupil, Jangwani Girls Secondary School.


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.


Rwandan dancers
Celebrations included dance performances


The library has already seen an increase in visits from children and schools as a result of the event.


Football match
Celebrations even included a youth football match!

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.

Children's Corner a MYSA Library

May Book of the Month

Our Book of the Month for May is:


Why is the sky blue?
Why is the sky blue?by Ladybird Books

This brightly illustrated book is packed with questions which children ask about the world around them such as “how do baby birds get out of their eggs?”, “can fish hear?” and “why do flowers smell nice?”

Each page poses a new question and is accompanied by clear and simple answers, many of which are hidden beneath flaps which children will love to lift. Colourful illustrations bring each question and answer to life.


Each page poses a new question with some answers hidden beneath flaps for children to find and lift


This edition also includes a transparent sheet between each page with the identical text in Braille meaning it can be enjoyed by children with visual impairment; creating opportunities for friends, siblings and families to share the book together.


This edition includes a transparent sheet between each spread with identical text in Braille


In many countries where we work, Braille books can be incredibly hard to access. As a result, opportunities to read for pleasure and learn can be far and few between:

“Most disabled people are excluded from social and economic opportunities,” Ms Baru, Director, Fionte Rehabilitation for Women with Disabilities Association (FRWDA), Ethiopia.

We are proud to send books like this Braille edition of Why is the sky blue? to organisations including FRWDA and the Dorothy Duncan Library in Zimbabwe and give more people the chance to enjoy reading and support their educations, whatever their circumstances.

You can find out more about the difference books you help to send are making for young girls using the FRWDA resource centre using the links below.


Child with Cat and Dog book

Reading and learning in Ethiopia

Last year we introduced you to Tefere, the librarian at Walia Primary School in Debark, a town in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia. The region has been described as one of the poorest in Africa. We are working with International Development Partnerships, an NGO supporting rural communities in the poorest parts of Ethiopia, to help improve the quality of education by providing brand new books to school libraries like Tefere’s.

In this blog, we hear from Mesfin, the librarian at another school in the region, Debark Primary School and some of his pupils about the difference the books you help to send are making.


Mesfin, Ethiopia


Librarian Mesfin Alem Agidew’s school library is housed in one of Debark Primary School’s oldest buildings. It is about 50 years old and constructed of wood and mud. Its walls are painted on the inside, it has a vinyl floor and skylights in the roof. There is no power and so the space can be quite dark on dull days.

“It is difficult because there are only some good places to read when it is a dark day. We need more light and more windows,” says Mesfin.

Despite these challenges, Mesfin’s library is a popular place. Teachers bring children to make use of reference books as part of their lessons. Between lessons and after school, pupils come to read storybooks, do their homework or revise for exams and tests. Mesfin is always on hand to support pupils’ reading:

I enjoy my job because I like to help the students. They come here to gain knowledge and I can help them.


Ermiyas Ethiopia
Ermiyas uses books in the library to help with his science homework


One of those students, Ermiyas Tadas Yigziw (pictured above), comes to the library after school and uses textbooks to help with his homework and improve his grades. The brand new books on science, nature, animals and space that you helped to send are a hit with young scientists like Ermiyas. The breadth of information, bright colours and helpful illustrations make them a popular addition to the school library.


Reading in the library after school
These three pupils came to the library to read after their classes had finished


Likewise, these three young pupils (above) have come to the library after their classes ended in the morning and asked to read the new storybooks also provided thanks to your generosity. They spent an hour reading quietly before going home.

Both the curriculum support books and story books you helped to send are proving a hit with the pupils. Mesfin wants his pupils to have every reason to read and enjoy them all the more:

“My hope for the future is that we will get a better, new library with more space and more light. If it is attractive and light, children will spend longer here reading and learning. I hope soon we will get a new building.”


Learn more about our work in Ethiopia and our work to support children’s education across Africa and beyond using the links below.

Photos © Heidi Cutts IDP


Child with Cat and Dog book

Inspiring young readers in Ethiopia

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.


Girls reading
Two girls share books in the library


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.


Children reading
Pupils use books in the library to help with their school work


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.


About Ethiopia

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.

Photos © Heidi Cutts IDP


International Literacy Day celebrations in Ethiopia

Reading Promotion 2016: Lessons and country reports

In 2016 Book Aid International launched a Reading Promotion campaign – a new project that would promote the local community and value of reading to local communities.

The vision of the campaign was to amplify the voice of our partners in favour of support for library services. We wanted to support libraries’ work promoting their services as vital resources to be used by all community members, to be valued by local authority and decision takers and be seen as valued resources in national development and educational agendas.

What we did

We provided prizes, funding, marketing materials and suggestions to libraries in five countries so that each library could run its own event on or around International Literacy Day, 2016 (September 8th).

We encouraged libraries to engage the local community and encourage reading amongst children so that all members of that community understood the importance of reading and use the day as an opportunity for the community to discover or rediscover the library.

We also suggested a range of literacy activities which libraries could run, competitions and games for children and parents alike to denote that reading as fun. In all cases, we also suggested that libraries invite the mass media, dignitaries and other guests of honour to capture the spirit of the event, showcase the activities on offer to a wider general audience and build support for their services.

Outcomes – Adults and children attending the events

Countries participated included: Cameroon, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In each country, the event was different to reflect the local challenges and opportunities that each community faced. We have summarised some of the key outcomes are highlighted below.


Country No. Adults attended No. Children attended/Participated
Cameroon 50 250
Ethiopia 200 100
Uganda 132 122
Zambia 49 131
Zimbabwe 92 114



Outcomes – mass media in attendance

Country Mass media support
Cameroon Vision 4 – radio and TV station

BBC Radio

The Post, The Sun, The Star, The Guardian Post, The voice newspapers

Ethiopia Ethiopian Herald newspaper

Brana Radio programme (FM 97.1)

Sierra Leone Africa Young Voices newspaper

New Vision newspaper

Uganda Invited but did not respond
Zambia Zambia Information Service (ZIS)

Radio Mano and Radio Lutanda

Zimbabwe Invited but did not respond


Each participating library prepared a report detailing what they did on the day. Click on the links below to read their reports.


Medical books

The books helping to improve patient care

For medical staff to deliver quality healthcare it is essential they have access to accurate, up-to-date information. Yet many of the hospitals they work in lack the funding to supply the books they need. As a result, many practitioners work with out-of-date texts and limited collections.

We are working to change this. In 2016 alone, we sent over 47,000 brand new medical books to our partners, including Menelik II Referral Hospital in Ethiopia.

Our Book Provision Manager Stevie paid them a visit:


Menelik II Hospital


The Menelik II Referral Hospital library supports over 300 staff. Book Aid International has supported this library since 2015 and the books it houses are nearly all provided by us.


Menelik II Hospital library


The hospital has no internet connection or access to online resources and so the library is vital to fill this knowledge gap.

The library is in constant use. Many of the hospital’s doctors make use of the library before and after rounds to check for the most up to date information on a particular condition.


Dr Adem


I spoke to the hospital’s Medical Director, Dr Kassahun Adem, to understand how the library helps him to treat his patients:

New treatment models, investigation methods and technologies are arriving all the time so there is a constant need to update my knowledge. For example, I heard of a recent new diagnostic and teaching method for bronchial asthma and I used books in the library to learn more about it. Any area of medicine needs up-to-date knowledge. These books are everything.


To find out more about our work to support books for better health, take a look the links below. If you’d like to receive regular updates about our work, complete the form below.

Braille books changing lives

At Book Aid International we believe in the power of books to inspire, educate and open doors, so we love seeing a well-stocked library being put to good use by readers of every age.

In our Book Provision Manager Stevie’s second blog about her trip to Ethiopia, she tells us about the inspiring work of the Finote Rehabilitation for Women with Disabilities Association (FRWDA) resource centre.

Housed in a shipping container, this centre is the first of its kind in Ethiopia. It is equipped with computers with text-to-speech software, several specially trained staff and a small library of books in both Braille and print. Most people who use the resource centre have visual impairment or other disabilities, but their families and carers also benefit from the books. The books available range from children’s stories to vocational and higher educational texts.


Reading Braille books


When I visited, the centre was crowded with a group of secondary school age girls. They all had visual impairment and were using the computers and reading from Braille books. I met 14-year-old Rosa Ibrahim who uses the centre to support her studies.

“I come here as often as possible to use the computers to write. I read the books in Braille. Sometimes the staff read to me from the books.”


Rosa and her friends


This resource centre is crucial for children and young people like Rosa.

“Most disabled people are excluded from social and economic opportunities,” Ms Baru, FRWDA’s Director tells us. In spite of these potential challenges, Rosa has big ambitions “I want to go to university and be a lawyer. But I don’t want just one degree. I also want to be a journalist and a social studies teacher.” With access to resources like these, Rosa and other women and girls with disabilities in Ethiopia are one step closer to achieving their ambitions.


Thanks to your support, Rosa has access to the books she needs to make the most of her education. If you’d like to find out more about our work in Ethiopia, click on the links below. To receive updates, sign up for our monthly newsletter below or follow @book_aid on twitter.