Tag Archives: Liberia

Jonah reading in Liberia

An update from Liberia

Before lockdown in Liberia, our partner WE-CARE Foundation was supplying schools, community libraries and universities across the country with the brand new books you help to send.

They were also just putting the finishing touches to the last of six Explorer Libraries in schools – a joint project to create school libraries from scratch, filled with brand new books in under-resourced schools.

Lockdown has closed schools and libraries in Liberia but WE-CARE Foundation are finding new innovative ways to keep children and communities reading and learning.

Here, Michael Weah, WE-CARE’s Executive Director, tells us more.

With the Covid-19 pandemic, this may mean the children will be about a year behind in their education.

Can you tell us a little about the work WE-CARE Foundation normally does?

WE-CARE Foundation is an educational NGO. We run several programs including the Reading Liberia Program where we help schools to set up libraries, supply them with books and train and mentor their teacher-librarians.

Library monitors
Library monitors at work in their new Explorer School Library

We also publish our own books which we supply to schools along with other donated books and supply books to colleges, universities, community libraries and other institutions.

Healthcare workers were victims during the Ebola epidemic in 2014 so most of the hospitals and clinics, which should be helping at this time, are closed out of fear.

What restrictions on normal life are being imposed because of Covid?

As of now, almost everything is at a stand-still. All of Liberia’s fifteen counties are under lockdown and travelling between counties is prohibited. Schools were among the first places that were ordered to close. All religious gatherings have been banned, only businesses that sell food, medicine, and beverages are open.

Healthcare workers were victims during the Ebola epidemic in 2014 so most of the hospitals and clinics, which should be helping at this time, are closed out of fear of contracting the disease.

With schools closed, children are not learning; and many of them do not have books at home.

How is the lockdown affecting people’s lives in Liberia?

People in Liberia are facing serious economic challenges. As safety measures become more restrictive, the price of everything from food to transportation has skyrocketed thus making it difficult for lot of our people.

This was made far worse when the lockdown was announced. Basic commodities from the capital can no longer get to the remote counties while agricultural produce from the rural areas can no longer get to the city.

Most people live by doing daily petty trading and from the proceeds, they feed their families each day. Many of them are engaged in small business and hawking in markets. But the fear is that these crowded markets could transmit the virus so the police have been clearing lot of market stalls, leaving many people with no other means to survive.

We are working with organisations that are supplying books to children to read and study at home.

Reading in the library
Schools and libraries in Liberia have been closed

How is the lockdown impacting children’s education?

The second semester, which is the second half of the school year, was just starting when schools were ordered to close. With no end to the pandemic in sight, it means that the whole semester is wasted. Here in Liberia, almost all of our parents depend on the schools for their children’s learning.

With no end to the pandemic in sight, it means that the whole semester is wasted.

Most parents cannot home school because they are illiterate. With schools closed, children are not learning; and many of them do not have books at home. Research and experience show that the longer the children stay out of school, the further behind they will be. With the Covid-19 pandemic, this may mean the children will be about a year behind in their education.

The local cell phones companies have educational apps for parents to use to teach their children, but few people are using them because you have to pay for data and many people don’t have smart phones. The Ministry of Education has also started a program where students are taught on the radio however many of the stations being used cannot reach the more remote counties.

It is evident that schools may not be opening this year so we are planning to step up book distribution to more communities.

How has your work changed since the lockdown?

Our work has changed drastically. We can no longer visit the libraries and have postponed the distribution of books to the schools.

Currently, we are working with organisations that are supplying books to children to read and study at home, supplying Covid-19 awareness flyers along with books and other school materials. Books are also being given to our staff to distribute (safely) in their communities.

Before the lockdown, we had established what we call ‘Community Bookshelves’ in three communities – small shelves built outside to hold books which people can take and read at home. We are still refilling these shelves every week to support the reading hobby of communities during lockdown.

We are working on ways to get more people in communities involved in some form of literacy activity.

Do you have any further plans in development?

It is evident that schools may not be opening this year so we are planning to step up book distribution to more communities. We are working on ways to get more people in communities involved in some form of literacy activity – even if they cannot read, they can “picture read” with their kids or just have a story time in the home. Also, we are planning to supply our school libraries with more books.

Betty

When libraries and schools are open again, what role do you think books will have in helping children to get back to learning?

Children will need to catch up because of the time they have been out of school. It is rumoured that schools may be compelled to promote their students to the next grade, who had passed the first semester. This means those students will be going to the next grade with only half of what they should have learned. This is where books come in. Children will need to do more reading and maths studies to meet the challenge.

… students will be going to the next grade with only half of what they should have learned. This is where books come in.

Sadly, many parents may not be able to afford to send their children back to school because of the economic conditions created by the pandemic. Although government schools are free, parents still have to pay a registration fee for each child as well as purchase a uniform, school materials and books.

Potentially our WE-CARE Library and other community libraries could serve as “schools” for these out of school children when libraries and schools reopen. All of our libraries are positioned to serve their communities but these will need additional books so that we can support out-of-school learners well.

 

* Photos used in this blog were taken before lockdown.

Sierra Leone primary school

Changing lives through reading

Since 2014, players of People’s Postcode Lottery have raised an amazing £1,850,000 to support our work. Their support is changing the lives of millions of people around the world through reading.

This week we’ve been celebrating the difference that players’ support is making. Here, we’ve gathered together some of the highlights:

Opening doors to reading for even the most marginalised children

In 2014, players helped open a Children’s’ Corner in Blantyre, Malawi. Today, that library is still opening doors to a world of reading for the children who need books most. Here two street children read during the day. They are unable to attend school, but thanks to players they can still discover books and learn to read.

 

These two street boys may not be able to attend school but thanks to players’ support, they can still discover books and learn in their local Children’s Corner

We thank you for making our library to be beautiful and giving us books.

– Young reader, Blantyre Children’s Corner

 

Reaching readers across Liberia

In 2017, players enabled us to begin supporting readers across Liberia – and here kids at the Pentecostal Global Mission School show off the books they’re reading as part of a library lesson. When you’ve never held a new book before, a school library is really something to celebrate!

the Pentecostal Global Mission School, Liberia

The children love the books so much. They want to borrow them all the time!

– Helena D. Kemokai, Principal, Dominic K. Hena School, Liberia.

 

Enriching under-resourced classrooms in Ghana

Last year, we expanded our work to Ghana where we’re collaborating with AfriKids – another player supported charity. Here AfriKids staff unpack their very first shipment of books and enjoy exploring the stories that they’ll now be able to use to enrich under-resourced classrooms across northern Ghana.

AfriKids staff enjoying newly donated books. Photo Credit: AfriKids

The books have enabled us to set up mini libraries in 45 schools. Pupils can now borrow books to read. Before, these schools didn’t have reading books.

– Linda, Early Years Project Coordinator, AfriKids.

 

Enabling people to learn to read at any age

People’s Postcode Lottery players’ support helped establish a library in 60-year-old Florence’s grandson’s school in Kenya. Florence hadn’t had the chance to finish her education and so she had never learned to read. When her grandson started bringing home phonics books, she saw an opportunity. Together with her neighbours, she formed an adult literacy class – and used the books players enabled us to send to learn to read!

Florence
60-year-old Florence learned to read for the first time using books from her grandson’s school library that players had helped to establish

Now I can read prices, so I get a fair price when shopping, and I can use a mobile phone!

– Florence, 60, Kenya.

 

Supporting refugee children in sheltering in Uganda

1.4 million displaced people are sheltering in refugee settlements in Uganda and hundreds of thousands of them are children. Through players’ support, we’re establishing reading spaces in children’s centres and schools in these settlements – providing story books selected to help children process the trauma of what they have been through and training teachers and children’s centre staff in how to lead reading activities and introduce children to the joy of reading.

Reading activity
A teacher leads a reading activity with children in the Adjumani settlement

I like reading the stories in the books with my friends. I also ask for books to read from home and the teacher allows me. Now I know new things.

– Stephen, 13, South Sudanese refugee, Adjumani settlement, Uganda.

 

We would like to say a huge thank you to players of People’s Postcode Lottery for their ongoing support.

EJ Yancy School Library

“Our school has a library for the first time”

Many schools in sub-Saharan Africa do not have libraries of their own. As a result, pupils often struggle to learn to read and succeed in their education.

The EJ Yancy Annex School in Liberia was one such school but thanks to your support, they have now created their own Explorer School Library filled with brand new books!

The school’s Principal, D. Kabawala O. Mulba, tells us about the new library and how it’s books are helping his pupils – and the wider community.

Library monitors
Student library monitors at work in their new school library

Our school is in an urban town, Kakata, but located in the most underdeveloped part. It is not a reading community and illiteracy is very high. The community is also economically challenged. Most of the people are engaged in small trading businesses.

All of the homes in our community do not have books because parents cannot afford to buy books. Before, our school also had very few books.

Book Aid International helped us establish our school library through the Explorer School Library project which began in December 2018. The project included training two of our teachers to manage the library.

Reading activity
Pupils now enjoy reading activities as part of their school days

The project is helping us promote reading in our school through the provision of quality reading books, textbooks and other information books. It’s also improved teaching through the use of textbooks and other books for instruction. Our teacher-librarians can now work with the students and teachers and encourage them to use the library more effectively.

Now my school has books, more reading is being done.

Students now have books and quality ones at that; books that cover all levels of our elementary school.

Reading in the library
Pupils love the books in the library so much they are going to the library on their own initiative

Our students are not waiting for teachers to take the books to them in the classroom, or for the teachers to send them to the library but are coming themselves to read. They use the books for their school work and to read for pleasure.

The books are a great help to the children.

One particular area the books are helping is in the Girls Accelerated Learning Initiative (GALI) program. Most of children, especially the over-age girls [girls who started school late], are far below their grade levels which the GALI program is working to improve.

The girls meet mostly in the library and the books are helping these girls improve their reading skills and performance in their classes. Some have even been promoted [to the next grade] twice this school year.

Girls reading
The books are helping girls who joined school late to catch up with their peers

 

Without these books, our students would have had no materials to read, do their homework, while teachers would have had difficulties in finding materials to prepare their lessons.

Our new library now serves as a ‘public library’ for the community, since there is none in our community. It serves other students of the community who don’t attend E.J. Yancy Annex School. The library also serves adults of the community where they can come to read newspapers and magazines, as well as the other books in the library including the novels for leisure reading.

The whole community uses the library
The library has opened its doors to the wider community, giving everyone the chance to access the books they need to learn, grow and read for pleasure

Our school has a goal to see our library include books on farming, gardening and books on life skills: plumbing, carpentry, auto and small machines repair, etc. We see ourselves opening more services to the community with reading being our focus, making our community more literate.

 

We would like to thank local Liberian NGO WE-CARE for their partnership in the Explorer School Libraries project.

Thanks to the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we are now expanding the Explorer School Library project to schools in West Africa.

Girls reading

Learning to read at 14 in Liberia

In Liberia, it is not unusual to find children as old as 11 in kindergarten. Many have started school late because of Liberia’s two civil wars between 1989 and 2003 and the 2014 Ebola crisis.

As Liberia recovers, schools like Dominic K. Hena School are working hard to help children joining school late catch up. “No matter what their age, we have never turned down a student, “ says Helena D. Kemokai, the school principal.

In addition to attending normal classes, overage pupils also take part in an after-school programme designed to build up their skills, using books you have helped to send to learn to read and write.

Here, three overage tell us more about their experience and their hopes for the future:

Grace, 14, third grade

 

Grace

 

“When I was a small girl, I was not going to school; I was working. My mother sent me to school now to learn. I am 14-years-old and was in second grade with my nine-year-old sister. Then I got a double promotion – I went from second grade to third grade. I take study classes with Mrs Helena. We are doing letter sounds and lots of reading. I love reading books. I can read Yellow Bus.”

Madilyn, 13

“I’m 13. My sister is 13 too. My sister doesn’t go to school, she works. I chose to go to school because I want to learn. I am an overaged student – I came to this school in first grade when I was 11-years-old. There are small people in our class. Sometimes I feel afraid to answer the questions because I am too big for the class. In the after-school study class Mrs Helena is teaching us the ABC and how to read. I like coming to this school because they are teaching me how to learn.”

Betty, 13, third grade

 

Betty

 

“I started school in Kindergarten 2 when I was 11. I don’t know why I started later than normal. It’s hard being one of the oldest in the classroom. I enjoy the reading and the spelling classes. Learning at school is so important because I want to go to trade school to become a tailor.”

 

School libraries like the one at Dominic K. Hena School rely on the generosity of our supporters to help stock their shelves with up-to-date books. Thanks to your support we sent 23,091 brand new books to Liberia in 2017 but many more are needed. With your help, we can give more readers access to the books they need in Africa and beyond.

 

Children reading

You can help Liberian children write the next chapter

Liberia was devastated by two periods of civil war between 1989 and 2003. Over 250,000 people were killed, 80% of schools were destroyed or damaged and most teachers fled. The country was still in recovery when the Ebola epidemic struck in 2014, claiming nearly 5,000 lives and forcing more than 4,400 schools to close for six months.

Despite these challenges, Liberians place a great value on education and today, schools are slowly recovering. However, they now face new challenges including an acute shortage of books, overcrowded classrooms and mixed age groups as teenagers and adults left out of education are able to go to school for the first time.

Helena D. Kemokai is the principal at Dominic K. Hena School in the Kakata District of Liberia. Here she tells us how books are helping her pupils to learn, some for the very first time.

 

Helena
Helena D. Kemokai, principal at Dominic K. Hena School

This is not a wealthy area. This is just a rural community. Most of the children’s parents produce goods to be able to sustain their children’s educations.

This is a community school. Community schools are run by a proprietor who’s the founder of the school and they give subsidies, just a little. We’ve got a lot of students – 1,142 – because we don’t really charge school fees here, just some minimal fees to sustain the teachers. Parents of our children can’t afford to pay more to go to a private school so our classrooms are very crowded.

We have some overage girls. In first grade we have 14-year-old girls.

Mostly it’s due to the civil war – children were not going to school because of the war. The Ebola outbreak was one of the causes too. Some of them lost their parents. Some parents can’t afford sending them at the earlier age. They want to learn. So now we have to create the avenue for them to learn. It is never too late to learn.

Overage girls
Children of different ages share classrooms as some children, particularly girls, begin at a later age

The overage girls programme is so amazing. After school we conduct special classes to build up their skills and capacity. We came up with a literacy programme – learning the alphabet, pronunciation. They are reading now. Because of the programme, their level of reading increased so we had to promote them to the next class.

Getting the books from Book Aid International has been like a healing.

We had a library but it was not active. Before, the children wanted to read but we had no books, especially for younger children. Now it’s always busy, the children love to come here.

Busy library
The library is a very popular place now that children have access to brand new books thanks to your support

Since the books from Book Aid International came, children are taking books home. We can’t have them only in school. They have no books at home. When you go home, you should have access to reading which alone will build up their skills.

The library is making a great difference in their reading and writing. We saw the difference when we took part in a competition – we won almost all of the titles! It took over all of Liberia and we came second place in reading and first place in writing. It was so great. We know that we are getting better – and it’s all starting from right in this library.

We always need more books because the children love the books so much, they want to borrow them all the time!

School libraries like the one at Dominic K. Hena School rely on the generosity of our supporters to help stock their shelves with up-to-date books. Thanks to your support we sent 23,091 brand new books to Liberia in 2017 but many more are needed. With your help, we can give more readers access to the books they need in Africa and beyond.

 

Pupils at Korieama Primary School

2017 year in review: 20 countries in just twelve months

As 2017 draws to a close, we are looking back over the last twelve months and forward to 2018. In this blog, our Chief Executive Alison Tweed reflects on the highlights from 2017 and gives us a preview of the year ahead.

This has been a year of change for our team at Book Aid International as we focused on putting our Vision 2020: Where Books Change Lives strategy into action. Launched in March, our new strategy commits us to ensuring that the books we send reach those who face the greatest barriers to accessing books.

 

Boys reading
Two friends share a book at Battir Library in the West Bank

 

To begin making that vision a reality, we focused on establishing partnerships in new countries where people lack the books they need, as well as continuing to support all our more longstanding library and education partnerships.

The books we provided reached people in some of the most difficult to reach places in the world who are determined to keep reading in the face of instability and uncertainty about the future. We sent books to universities in Somalia, to transit camps in Greece, to schools for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and to the world’s youngest nation which continues to be gripped by conflict, South Sudan.

 

Pacifique leads a reading activity
Taking part in a reading activity at Esperance Community Centre’s library in Rwanda

 

We also doubled the number of books provided to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, sent books to the Caribbean island of Antigua to support people displaced from Barbuda and Dominica by Hurricane Irma and began sending books to Liberia, Rwanda, Ghana and The Gambia.

Inspiring Readers, Book Havens and more

In March of this year our flagship Inspiring Readers programme won the prestigious 2017 London Book Fair International Excellence Award in the category of Educational Initiatives. It was a fantastic boost for the programme which aims to bring books into the classrooms of 250,000 African primary school pupils by 2020.

 

Moi Primary readers
Pupils enjoy reading in class at Inspiring Readers school Moi Primary in Kenya

 

In 2017, we continued to expand the programme and today almost 89,000 pupils in Kenya, Cameroon and Malawi have books in their classrooms and trained teachers to help them discover how reading supports their learning.

Highlights of the year for me also included:

 

  • Helping reading and learning to flourish in Nairobi’s Mathare slum through our Book Havens project

 

Jason
Young reader Jason shows us his favourite place to read in his new Book Haven

 

  • Giving secondary school pupils in Zambia new resources to study and succeed in their exams by creating Study Hubs

 

Secondary school pupils using their study hub in Zambia
Secondary school pupils using books in their Study Hub at Choma Library

 

 

The people we reached

When I look back on 2017, more than anything I will remember the people who told us how the books we send are helping them to change their own lives.

I was particularly inspired by the words of 17 year old Lydia in Uganda who reminds us how determined people around the world are to read:

My dad always says ‘You shouldn’t go there, collecting books from there. Those books don’t help you.’ He doesn’t know how they help me. But my mum knows. She helps me go out to the library and get the books. I have already read all the fiction in the library – there are not enough now! We need more so we can keep learning. For me, I am going to be a writer, so I must keep reading!

[read more]

Lydia is just one of the estimated 24 million people who read the books we provide in any one year. We could not reach a single one of those readers without the new books that are so generously donated by publishers, the funds we receive from individuals, trusts and companies and the hard work of our volunteers. We would like to extend a very warm thank you to all of our supporters for all that you do.

Looking forward to 2018

In 2017 we sent over 930,000 books to a wide range of new and established partners.

In 2018 we are aiming to send up to 1.2 million books and we are expanding our warehouse operations in Camberwell to help us do just that.

 

Loading a shipment
Loading a shipment at our warehouse in London

 

We will also continue to implement our Inspiring Readers, Book Havens and Study Hub projects and we are currently exploring the next steps for our work providing e-books alongside print books for children.

We are very much looking forward to a year of new partnerships and new opportunities to reach those who need books most and we hope that you will join us as we continue to work toward a world where everyone has access to books that will enrich, improve and change their lives.

 

Liberia

MEDIA RELEASE: Book Aid International sends first shipment of books to Liberia

Book Aid International is pleased to announce that over 23,000 brand new books donated by UK publishers are now on their way to Liberia. The books will be used by the WE-CARE Foundation, The University of Liberia and Plan Liberia to support education across the country and enrich the lives of thousands of readers.

Liberia is Africa’s oldest modern republic. It was originally home to freed slaves from America and was the first African nation to elect a female president in 2005, but its history has been marred by conflict. The country was devastated by two periods of civil war that raged from 1990-1997 and again from 1999-2003, leaving an estimated 250,000 people dead. 80% of schools were destroyed or damaged and most of the country’s teachers fled the country.

Liberia’s recovery was further impacted by the Ebola outbreak in 2014 in which 4,809 people lost their lives. More than 4,400 schools were closed for six months during the epidemic leaving 1.5 million children without access to education. Today, Liberia lags behind most other African countries in nearly all education statistics.

Book Aid International is proud to provide books to its partners across the county who are working to improve the lives of Liberians through education and reading. Michel Weah from the WE-CARE Foundation in Liberia explained the impact the books will have:

“One of the major problems in our Liberian schools is lack of books and this shipment from Book Aid International will really help in meeting that need. Trained teachers and books readily available to the students create an environment where learning is taking place. These will be part of the effort to fill the chronic need for current books that is endemic at all levels of the Liberian school system.”

Alison Tweed, Book Aid International’s Chief Executive, spoke of the charity’s commitment to expand its work into Liberia:

“The need in Liberia is great and we are very pleased to be able to provide thousands of brand new books to support Liberian readers and learners. The books we are providing range from story books which will ignite children’s imaginations to university texts which will help students develop their professional skills, so they will support people from all walks of life. I would like to extend a warm thank you all of the publishers here in the UK who so generously donated the brand new, beautiful books which are currently on their way to Liberia.”

Book Aid International’s expansion into Liberia was funded by Players of People’s Postcode Lottery. To date, players of People’s Postcode Lottery have provided a total of £900,000 to help the charity send books to readers around the world.

To find out more about Book Aid International’s planned work in Liberia, please visit: https://bookaid.org/countries/liberia

Ends

NOTES TO EDITORS

For further information and comment please contact Emma Taylor, Head of Communications at Book Aid International

e: emma.taylor@bookaid.org

t: 020 7326 5800

About Book Aid International

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

Book Aid International works with an extensive network of libraries, schools, hospitals, NGOs and other partners to ensure that the books it sends reach as many people as possible. The charity estimates that the books it provides reach 24 million people every year.

In addition, Book Aid International runs projects which build the capacity of librarians and teachers to support people and communities.

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

About People’s Postcode Lottery

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  • A minimum of 31% goes directly to charities and players have raised £237.8 million for good causes across the country
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Note: Header image photo credit: UNMEER-Simon Ruf