Africa Educational Trust (AET) is one of Book Aid International’s long-standing partners. Working in Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda, AET seeks to build education programmes for excluded people in conflict-affected areas of Africa. We supply new books and partner on projects to support AET in their work. For the past year we have partnered with AET Kenya on a Mother Tongue and English Education project. Here, Adrienne Gregory, Head of Fundraising at AET, tells us about the project and what it is already achieving.
Kiwanja Ndege Primary school sits on one of the highest points on the outskirts of DolDol town in Laikipia County, Kenya, over 60 kilometres from the next town. The school’s name means ‘land for planes’ and is named for the small strip that is close to the school. There are 351 children who attend the school. Most of them are Maasai, a community that is traditionally nomadic, but has become more settled in this area. Still the children walk an average of 4-5 km every day to reach the school. Although Maa children are able to attend school, the languages of instruction – English and Kiswahili – are not understood by the majority of these pupils.
Schools in remote rural areas like Kiwanja Ndege are the most under-resourced in Kenya. As a result, children in the semi-arid region of Kenya have the poorest school results in the country. Many of these schools do not have any books other than course materials. AET has been working with Book Aid International to help Kiwanja Ndege and 13 other schools in Laikipia County to improve local language teaching in Maa, help students transition from Maa to English and improve their academic performance. Book Aid International has provided thousands of new, relevant books in English for the schools and AET has provided Maa-language materials. Together we have established libraries in each school and teacher training in how to manage the library and promote reading.
“What we have has just laid the foundation as we had nothing before when we only relied on newspaper cuttings.”
– Benjamin Muriuki, English Teacher and Teacher Librarian at Kiwanja Ndege Primary School.
Pupils at Kiwanja Ndege Primary School now have access to over 650 books. There is not room for a separate library so the books are stored in Teacher Librarian Benjamin Muriuki’s office. Although there isn’t space for classes to have library lessons here, Benjamin has made reading an everyday affair for pupils by allowing them access to the books whenever he isn’t in class and at break time and after school. The library is very popular. On average, 60 pupils borrow books each day to read in class and in their own time. They read story and phonics books and teachers also use the phonics books to teach various activities in lower primary.
Now if you visit the school you would find older children reading in their breaks. The children tell us that reading the books is helping with their English – they are learning new words and gaining more confidence. Teachers also say that the students are reading better. During one visit, AET staff sat in on a lesson where the class read out loud. After reading, the students were all able to answer some simple questions about the story. Overall, teachers report that the library has helped improve lessons and students and teachers are communicating in English better.
Everyone hopes the library will grow. The books are currently housed in a lockable cabinet, but teachers and students now have a dream of a room filled with books, where students and teachers can come and share the joy of reading.
Photos supplied by Africa Educational Trust.