Tag Archives: Kakuma

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.


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.”

An update from Kakuma

Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya is the second largest camp in the world. Like many parts of the world, it is currently in lockdown because of Covid-19. Schools have closed and none of the 149,000 people that live there can leave. No-one can enter either.

People in Kakuma do not have electricity in their homes which makes it difficult for students to tune into lessons broadcast on national radio.

However, all is not lost. The books and solar lamps that supporters like you have helped to send are enabling students to keep reading and learning.

Here, George Nandi from our partner Windle International Kenya tells us more:

Kakuma busy street
Typical scenes in Kakuma Refugee Camp, where we are providing books

How has the pandemic affected life in Kakuma?

There is a restriction of movement in and out of the camp. Due to congestion in the camp it’s hard to observe the safety guidelines so people face high risks of protracted infections of Covid-19 and there are limited protective devices such as face masks and limited hand washing stations. There is also an increased rate of gender based violence and abuse, poor mental health and a drop out of learners – especially girls due to pregnancy.

Our learners face challenges in accessing devices such as radios, smart phones and internet bundles.

How has education in particular been affected?

Schools remain closed and currently learning is going on through radio lessons where Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development’s pre-recorded content and live lessons are aired. Reading materials including print, audio and video content are also transmitted to learners through school WhatsApp trees and online education platforms. But our learners face challenges in accessing devices such as radios, smart phones and internet bundles. This period out of school might result in increased dropout rates and insufficient syllabus coverage leading to poor performance.

Vision Secondary
This period out of school could lead to increased drop out rates when schools reopen

How are you supporting learners in Kakuma now that libraries and schools are closed?

Currently teachers have minimum contact with students however the school library books are being safely issued to students by teacher-librarians and priority is given to candidates [students in the final year of secondary school] for home study. Teachers on the other hand are tasked with developing digital content to pass to learners through the available channels.

Books provided by Book Aid International and also solar lamps … are helping the students to continue to extend their study time at home.

How are the books and lamps supplied as part of our Reading for All and Solar Homework Club projects helping?

As I mentioned, the teacher librarians continue to issue out books provided by Book Aid International and also solar lamps. They are helping the students to continue to extend their study time at home.

Showing a book
Books you helped to send like this one are helping students to keep learning while schools are closed


There are more solar lamps and books on their way from Nairobi to Kakuma project, how will these help further?

More books and lamps will mean that more learners, especially candidates, will be able to extend their reading time at home. The outcome will be improved performance despite the restrictions caused by Covid-19.

We would like to say a special thank you to players of People’s Postcode Lottery and Intouch Global Foundation for their generous support of our project work in Kakuma.


* Photos used in this blog were taken before lockdown.

Children's Corner a MYSA Library

February Book of the Month

Our February Book of the Month is:

Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano and donated by Hachette Children’s Books

Weaving together real stories of migration, this powerful graphic novel brings to life the 21st-century refugee experience. The story follows a young boy, Ebo, as he undertakes the hazardous journey across Africa to Europe in search of his siblings who left before him and in hope of a new and better life.

Whilst told with humour and compassion, the authors do not shy away from the realities that men, women and children who make this epic journey face.

Illegal inside
Giovanni Rigano’s stunning illustrations bring the story to life

Text is quite minimal and it is Giovanni Rigano’s stunning illustrations that bring the story vividly to life. His illustrations act like a camera lens, bringing the reader up close to faces highlighting emotion and drama but also pulling back to reveal vast panoramas. The double page spreads of the sprawling city of Agadez and the illustration of the boat Ebo is granted passage on in the middle of the seemingly endless ocean are particularly memorable.

The engaging illustrations and sparse text make this book very accessible. Readers will find Ebo’s spirit and ingenuity infectious, especially those in refugee camps who often tell us that they are particularly inspired by stories of people who have overcome challenges in their own lives. This book will also be welcomed by NGOs working in camps who often use books as a tool to help people, especially children, work through the trauma of what they have been through and handle the difficulties of camp life.

Copies will soon be on their way to refugee camps we support across the world including Dadaab and Kakuma, two of the world’s largest camps, both in Kenya.


Children participate in a reading activity in Alrowwad's library in Aida Camp

MEDIA RELEASE: Friends of Alrowwad UK teams up with Book Aid International to support refugee camp libraries


To mark Refugee Week, UK Friends of Aida Refugee Camp’s Alrowwad Centre in West Bank stamped hundreds of books at Book Aid International’s warehouse to go on the charity’s forthcoming shipment to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Book Aid International has been sending books to OPT since 1988 and in 2016 the charity sent 15,000 books to public libraries, libraries in refugee camps, schools and universities there. Of these, hundreds of picture books and reading books for children and young people supported libraries in four refugee camps in West Bank, including Aida Camp.

Aida Refugee Camp was established in 1950 to house people who were displaced after Israel declared independence in 1948. The camp is severely overcrowded: it houses over 5,500 refugees in an area less than one third of a square mile. Its proximity to the separation wall means the camp’s residents experience regular clashes with the Israeli Security Forces. These clashes are particularly upsetting for the camp’s children.

Alrowwad Centre offers children in Aida Camp one of few safe places to go outside their homes. In addition to a library stocked with Book Aid International books and offering a busy programme of activities, the centre also runs drama, dance and film workshops to promote belonging, creativity and self-expression. Together, the library and these activities help camp residents deal with the challenges of camp life.

Book Aid International Chief Executive Alison Tweed said “This Refugee Week we are proud to support displaced people around the world. Displaced people, wherever they may find themselves, need access to books so that they can continue their education and keep reading. We were very pleased to welcome Friends of Alrowwad UK to our warehouse yesterday. We have seen first-hand the excellent work Alrowwad does and how their team uses the books we send to support the education of children in the camp and make books available to all.”

Melissa Scott of Friends of Alrowwad UK said “It has been a pleasure to stamp books that are destined for Alrowwad and other libraries in Palestine. The bright, vibrant books will be loved by the children who are so keen to further their education which fits the ethos of Alrowwad Centre. The centre provides a safe haven for children in Aida Camp in which to learn, grow and improve their life chances and the library is a big part of that.”

In addition to supporting refugees in OPT, Book Aid International also supports libraries in two of the world’s largest refugee camps, Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya and provides books to Souda Camp in Chios, Greece. The charity is seeking to expand its work providing books to displaced people, people living in fragile states and conflict-affected communities over the next three years and hopes to send around 25,000 books to OPT in 2017.




For further information and comment please contact Jenny Hayes, Communications Executive at Book Aid International.

e: jenny.hayes@bookaid.org

t: 020 7326 5801

About Book Aid International

Book Aid International is the UK’s leading international book donation and library development charity. Every year, the charity ships around one million books to thousands of libraries in communities where people have very few opportunities to access books.

Book Aid International works with an extensive network of libraries, schools, hospitals, NGOs and other partners to ensure that the books it sends reach those who are most in need. In addition, it also run library development projects which build the capacity of librarians to support readers and communities.

The charity only sends books at the request of its library partners. These books are carefully selected by our UK team led by professional librarians to ensure that they the needs of local communities.

All of the books sent by Book Aid International are donated by the UK book trade so they are all new.

Visit www.bookaid.org for more information or join the conversation on twitter: @book_aid


About Alrowwad Centre for Culture and Arts

Alrowwad is a not-for profit NGO which provides artistic, cultural and theatre training for children in Aida Camp, Bethlehem. Alrowwad works in the spirit of social entrepreneurship to deepen the notion of belonging, volunteering, creativity and self-expression for children, youth and women, regardless of origin or religion. Arowwad also provides vocational training for job creation and building peace within individuals to be able to build it among Palestinians and the world.

Find out more here http://www.alrowwad.org/en/ or find Friends of Alrowwad UK on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofAlrowwadUK/

Kakuma learners

A book for a book: bringing more books to children in refugee camps in Kenya

At Book Aid International, we believe all children should have the opportunity to read, to enjoy new, appealing and relevant books regardless of their situation. There is one book which we are particularly excited about at the moment and that is The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon which is published by Orion Children’s Books today.


The Bone Sparrow


The novel follows a 10-year-old boy called Subhi who has lived his whole life in a refugee detention centre. Orion Children’s Books will donate a book from their list to us for every copy of The Bone Sparrow sold. We will send these books to a refugee camp library in Kenya, to bring the joy of books and reading to children like Subhi.

“We are proud to be partnering with Orion Children’s Books, one of our long-term publisher supporters, on this important campaign. We have supported libraries in refugee camps in Kenya for many years and for many of the camps’ inhabitants, these libraries represent the only chance to read, to learn and to progress in education.“ – Alison Tweed, Director, Book Aid International.




The books which Orion Children’s Books donate will be sent to our partner Windle Trust which provides libraries, education facilities and programmes for people in Kenya’s Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps. Dadaab refugee camp in Garissa Province is estimated to be the largest refugee camp in the world, with a population of around 320,000 people. Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana Province has an estimated population of around 180,000 people.

We have supported Windle Trust’s work in these camps with book donations since 2000. Many people in the camps have no access to books anywhere else and Windle Trust’s facilities provide a rare, reliable and accessible source of reading and learning materials. We are delighted to have this opportunity to send even more inspiring, high quality books for children in these camps to enjoy, thanks to Orion Children’s Books and Zana Fraillon.

Zana Fraillon felt compelled to write this novel because she could not ignore the millions of people who were being forcibly displaced and the millions of children missing out on a childhood. “The Bone Sparrow was written so we remember the people behind the statistics.”

Thanks to Orion Children’s Books and Zana Fraillon, the children of Kakuma and Dadaab will have access to some fantastic children’s books and the chance to experience the joy of reading, even within the camps’ walls.

Find out more about The Bone Sparrow here.