Tag Archives: Schools

Education in Africa: Back to the classroom

While students across the UK returned to school this autumn, we took a look at how back-to-school initiatives are progressing in Africa.

Even before the global pandemic hit, only 17.8% of households in Africa had internet access at home, so the option of home learning was limited. This is one of the reasons why news of back to school plans have been so warmly welcomed.

Kenya’s Education Minister officially stated that schools in Kenya were to reopen on the 12th of October for selected year groups. All students are expected to adhere to the mandatory use of facemasks and monitoring of body temperatures, and where there is no running water, schools will use hand sanitiser. In addition, a section of universities and colleges reopened on 5th October as part of a slow return to higher education. 


Students before lockdown at a school library in Kakuma, Kenya

Although physical distancing remains a challenge, the Kenyan Minister said that this shouldn’t be used as an excuse to keep any child away from school. 

It’s good news from Gambia too. The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education has declared the opening of secondary schools in the Gambia from the 14th of October, again to selected year groups. Students at primary level and in nursery have also been asked to return to school on the 28th of October, 2020.

Image of a school in Zambia, before COVID-19

In Zambia, the President acknowledged the negative effects closing of schools had on students, acknowledging that the introduction of virtual learning platforms only benefited a few pupils while many were left out. Therefore, under strict health measures, schools resumed school learning from July.

Despite a lot of positivity, across this region nearly 65 million children remain out of school, and around one in two of those are not reached by any form of learning. It’s for this reason that it’s more important than ever we continue to find ways to help children in the most disadvantaged communities gain access to books. 



Keeping pupils reading in lockdown

Charity’s children’s school is currently closed because of Covid-19 restrictions in Kenya. Continuing their education at home is difficult but thanks to the books you have helped to send to their school and its innovative head teacher, Charity’s children are able to keep reading during lockdown.

Here, Charity tells us more.

Charity and her daughter Jennifer
Charity and her daughter Jennifer

“I normally sell second-hand clothes in the market. But we are in lockdown so I am currently grounded. It is quite difficult seeing that it is my only source of income.

I have my children to feed and when the virus is over they have to go back to school. Being a single mother, education is the only thing I can give them.

So I am doing casual work in people’s farms. It goes for 250 Kenyan shillings [£1.91] per day. That is enough to cater for our daily food. It is quite difficult but we manage somehow.

I am concerned about my children’s education.

As I said, it is the only thing I can give to them. But since the government has said we should not mix with others, my children just play at home. So the fact that they are now at home it’s really eating away at me, seeing that I have nothing else to give them.

It has been over three months now and it is really affecting them.

But the Head Teacher, Mr Josphat, has been visiting homes, finding out whether the children are reading and giving out books to them.

He usually goes around with a box, where he puts those books and he leaves the pupils around 5-7 books. So at least they know how to read and write. That is the only education they have now.

Usually we don’t have books at home so the children like these books so much!

Even at night they read and when they see the head teacher around the village they shout “Give us books!”


Mr Josphat quote


Sometimes when Mr Josphat gives the books, he also gives them summaries and vocabulary work. They look for the meaning of the words. So he is keeping our children busy with books.

Books are the only source of information and when they have these books, the content is relevant to their growth, relevant to their education. These books are to the level of the learner.

I just want to say that we are really grateful. In Kenya, you see, there are many many schools – but you chose our school.

These books really saved our community.


*The photos used in this blog were taken before lockdown.

Reading in class

Using books to get back to learning

Lydia is the head teacher at Narok Primary School in Laikipia in rural Kenya. Her school has been closed since March due to restrictions imposed because of Covid-19.

Lydia, Head Teacher of Narok Primary School

For many of her pupils, learning from home is impossible and they do not have books at home.

Lydia’s pupils are at risk of falling severely behind in their education and having their dreams shattered.

But all is not lost. Lydia believes the books you are helping to send will play an important part in supporting her pupils to catch up and get back to learning when her school reopens.

Below she tells us more:

Local landscape in Laikipia


“I have over 410 children enrolled in my school and many of them trek over 10 kilometres to get to class. We have pupils from pastoralist communities, the Samburu and Turkana people, and most are very poor.

Laikipia children
Many of Lydia’s pupils are not learning at home but helping their parents in the fields

Right now, the lockdown is a very big challenge for them because they depend on selling their animals but the markets are closed. This means that they may miss their daily bread.

Currently, our children are not learning.

Because of Covid-19, all schools have been closed.

This is a big problem because the children don’t have books at home, so they are no longer reading or learning.

Most of them are just going to work in the field with their parents and as most of our parents are illiterate, they cannot support their children’s learning at home.

Playing outside
Lydia worries that this extended period out of school will negatively impact her pupils’ future

The government has been trying to put in place methods for Kenyan children to learn through the television, laptops and smartphones.

But in our region most of our parents cannot afford books, let alone these gadgets.

And to add to that, we have very big areas with no internet or even electricity.

The teachers and I are very concerned for the children. It’s a crucial time as their minds are developing.

I know many will have forgotten what they were taught once the school reopens.

It can really affect their development and their future.

The teachers and I have already planned to burn the midnight oil when we return to school. We will have to work extra to make up for lost time.

We will add an hour to the school day so the children can read in the library because books will really help them catch up.

Books are the ideal way for these children to learn after lockdown and to learn seriously.

But we don’t have enough books. The library will need more books as we have so many children but so few books.

Sharing a textbook
Currently Lydia’s school has no books apart from curriculum books

Brand new books from Book Aid International will help the children explore the world and reach their true potential.

It costs just £2 to send the next book – and the book you send could help some of the world’s most vulnerable children get back to learning and pursue their dreams.

Please give what you can today using the link below, by calling us on 020 7733 3577 or emailing info@bookaid.org.


*The photos used in this blog were taken before lockdown.

Lagam library Kenya

Our top 10 highlights from 2017

Thanks to your support we achieved so much in 2017!

With your help, our books reached readers in TWENTY countries, over 88,000 primary school children are enjoying new books in school thanks to our Inspiring Readers programme, more than 5,000 books reached displaced people in Greece and much more besides.

We couldn’t have done it without you.

Take a look at the ten short clips below for more of our 2017 highlights.


Highlight 10

60-year-old Florence in Kenya joined an adult education class and using the books you helped to send, learned to read for the very first time.

Highlight 9

Schools and libraries in the Occupied Palestinian Territories received twice as many books.

Highlight 8

Our amazing donors smashed our Open Doors Children’s Corners appeal’s £600,000 target, giving thousands of children in seven countries vibrant reading spaces to discover books.

Highlight 7

30,000 brand new books reached readers in Rwanda.

Highlight 6

3,806 books were shipped to the world’s youngest nation, South Sudan.

Highlight 5

5,541 books reached displaced people in Greece.

Highlight 4

Books you helped to send are now filling a library in rural Uganda where they are helping children develop a love of reading and farmers to cope with the effects of climate change.

Highlight 3

88,903 primary school children in Cameroon, Kenya and Malawi now have brand new books in their classrooms thanks to our Inspiring Readers programme.

Highlight 2

Children in Nairobi’s slums are now enjoying Book Havens in three local libraries.

Highlight 1

Thanks to your support, we sent books to 20 countries, which will reach over 20 million readers!

Thank you for your support in 2017. Here’s to getting even more books to the people who need them the most in 2018!

For more information about the work you supported in 2017, take a look at the links below.


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


Reading in Ugandan school

Loving school libraries in Uganda


Esther, 14, in Eastern Uganda doesn’t have any books at home. She wants to become a doctor so that she can treat people in her community. Esther’s school library has helped her with her studies towards her dream as it has a lot of science books.


Ugandan school
Children enjoy books in a classroom in Uganda


Our partner Africa Educational Trust (AET) creates education programmes to support adults and children like Esther in conflict-affected areas of Africa. In Uganda, they are working with other organisations to bring recovery and prosperity in eastern and northern regions where poverty and conflict have impacted the quality and accessibility of education. Many schools there are severely under-resourced and AET is working to establish school libraries and train librarians in disadvantaged primary schools. We are proud to support their work, donating brand new books for pupils to enjoy who might not otherwise have anything to read.

Here, young readers in Uganda tell us more about their school libraries:


Discovering dinosaurs



Florence, 11, goes to her school library at least once a week to borrow a book to read at home. Fruit is her favourite book because it has good pictures and she has also learned a lot about plants from it. The books in her school library have given her the opportunity to learn about things you don’t get in Uganda like snow and dinosaurs. She wants more books to be added to the library’s collection so she can keep learning new things.


Reading Buddies


Godfrey and Yowana
Reading Buddies Yowana and Godfrey


Yowana, 11 and Godfrey, 13, joined the Reading Buddies scheme at their school in February and have been reading together twice a week ever since. Every Monday and Thursday they come to their school library at six in the morning to read for an hour before schools starts. The boys have found that by reading together, their reading is improving – they learn new words from each other and are able to help each other with pronunciation. Together, they have developed a real love of reading and they are now encouraging other friends to find reading partners of their own. Both hope to become teachers when they grow up so they can help more children discover the joy of reading.


A librarian in the making




Ten year old Rebecca doesn’t have any books at home. She enjoys reading so much that she helps out in her school library, organising the books and keeping the space clean, so that she can have access to books as much as possible. Her older sister helps her with hard words and combined with the books in her school library, Rebecca’s reading and comprehension is getting better and better.


Many thanks to AET for the opportunity to share these stories and pictures with our supporters.

Our Vision for 2020

As part of our Vision for 2020, we are committed to supporting pupils struggling to learn in under-resourced schools and people affected by conflict. Find out more using the links below.


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.


Thika school

Inspiring Readers

Watch our short film to find out more about our Inspiring Readers programme, which will bring Book Box Libraries to a quarter of a million African primary school children.


Your amazing World Book Day efforts

World Book Day is an annual celebration of all things bookish and it’s also a great opportunity to fundraise for Book Aid International. Every year, children and adults across the UK amaze us with their fundraising efforts. This year World Book Day was on 3rd March and we’ve been delighted to receive so many stories and pictures of what you got up to, as well as your donations of course. Here’s just a few of the great efforts you went to this year to raise money for our work.

At Newminster Middle School in Northumberland children dressed up as their favourite book characters and the librarian there reports that almost everyone got involved this year. They held a dressing up competition and the 10 winners, judged as having displayed the most ingenuity and originality with their costumes, each chose a book prize from the school’s week long Travelling Books Fair. Apparently it was not an easy decision, but well done to everyone who got involved!

The students in Mrs Leckie’s Book Group at Coltness High School in Lanarkshire organised a bake sale and raised £75.20 for our work. Huge thanks to Abby Green, Robert Langford, Caitlin Laing, Amy Kelly and Kerry Campbell for all their efforts.

Denstone Sixth Form College in Staffordshire has recently opened a new library. Their librarian told us: “It is a beautiful place for pupils to work in and provides them with access to books in a way that, we realise, so many others can only dream of.”

The college had a special display in the library about our work which fit perfectly with the opening of their new library space. Students at the college take part in fundraising activities all year round and they felt it was fitting to donate some of this money to Book Aid International on World Book Day.

World Book Day isn’t just for children and Edinburgh and York University libraries proved that this year by getting their students involved with the fun. All late fines paid on and around World Book Day were donated – helping students turn a bad deed into a very good one!

Our Community Ambassador Jane Penson also took a sophisticated approach to World Book Day and organised a fundraising dinner in Amersham. A beautiful dinner was provided and our very own Head of Fundraising and Development Hannah Watson attended and gave a short speech to raise awareness of our work. In total Jane and her guests raised over £1,000.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who raised money for us on World Book Day. The donations you make really will make a huge difference to people’s lives in Africa as we’ll be able to fill more library shelves with brand new, carefully selected books that can help people discover the joy of reading.

Schools, community groups and individuals have already sent in more than £43,000. If you still have funds to donate, here’s all the information on how to get your money to us.