Tag Archives: Somalia

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


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.


Opening libraries in Somaliland

Since 1991, Somalia has been riven by internal conflict and without an effective central government. As well as huge loss of lives and homes, the conflict has also badly affected health and education provision. Books and educational resources are in extremely short supply.


Somaliland sunset


We’ve been supporting libraries in Somalia for over 40 years. Today, as Somalia seeks to recover, we have a vital role to play by providing books to help people and local institutions rebuild their lives and communities.

We are proud to support the work of our partner in Somalia, Africa Educational Trust (AET). AET is dedicated to promoting and providing education for all, targeting excluded groups including those affected by conflict. We supply brand new books for the community libraries, schools, universities and other institutions AET supports.

Recently, AET opened a new library in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, a semi-autonomous region of Somalia. We were delighted to supply books to fill its shelves. We caught up with AET Executive Director Julie Polzerova to find out more about the new library.


Tell us a bit more about Somaliland and the need for the work of Book Aid International and AET there.

Somaliland had been involved in conflict for many years. Fighting between clans and between Somaliland and Ethiopia for land has led to a country where the infrastructure is fragile and underdeveloped.  Since declaring independence, Somaliland has fought to establish its own government. The education system is complicated by the need for literacy in English, Somali and Arabic. Reading materials are scarce and both children and adults find it hard to source books to support wider literacy as well as text books in English.


View from Amoud University, Somaliland


How have BAI and AET been working together to address these issues?

AET programmes in Somalia support government and community efforts to re-establish formal education at both primary and secondary school levels. As part of this, AET has been setting up libraries in primary and secondary schools, vocational institutions, community libraries and universities across Somaliland. These institutions are vital as the country aims to rebuild. Book Aid International has been supplying brand new books to support these libraries since 2002.


Pupils enjoy books at M Ali Secondary School
Pupils enjoy books at Ma Ali Secondary School. Photograph courtesy Africa Educational Trust.

We were delighted to hear of the new library AET opened in Hargeisa. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

The library building is brand new, built within the AET compound to ensure security. It is a large space which is well furnished for reading and group work and it houses a large number of books. Most of these have been supplied by Book Aid International. The books the charity has sent cover a diverse range of topics including medical and science textbooks, dictionaries and a wide range of reading books for all ages. I am pleased to say that the library is really well-used by the local community including local schools, teachers and students as well as general members of the public.


New Hargeisa library
The new library at Hargeisa. Photograph courtesy of Africa Educational Trust.

What opportunities do you hope this new library and the books it contains will bring to the people of Hargeisa?

Obtaining English reading books is next to impossible in Somalia and so improving English literacy is very difficult, but is essential for trade and employment. So to have access to brand new books in English like those supplied by Book Aid International is invaluable. Access to phonics books and early readers which the charity has sent are a great way to introduce children to English and grow their proficiency in the language. Likewise, guided readers and general fiction titles enable young people and adults to improve their literacy.

Our next step will be to install computers into the library so people can learn to search the internet for information as well as using books.


We’re delighted to hear that the new books we send are providing the people of Hargeisa with vital access to materials essential for education, trade and employment. We hope these books will help the community to make the most of their education, further their skills and develop a love of reading.

Pupils in Somalia reading

School libraries: broadening horizons for children in Somaliland

Book Aid International has been proud to partner with Africa Educational Trust (AET) for many years, supporting their work in Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda. AET works to provide education to children and young people affected by conflict and poverty.  As an organisation dedicated to education for all, AET targets excluded groups including pastoralists and people in remote and rural communities, families displaced by conflict or drought and girls and women.

Many schools in Somalia were destroyed in the civil war and educational resources are in extremely short supply. As Somalia seeks to rebuild its education system Book Aid International has a vital role to play in providing new, carefully selected books that can help people rebuild their lives and communities.

Since 2002 we have supplied books to stock libraries set up by AET in primary schools across Somaliland, a semi-autonomous region of Somalia. Since then, AET has expanded this work into secondary schools, vocational institutions, community libraries and universities in Somaliland. We were delighted to hear from AET recently about the difference these libraries and the books we send continue to make:


Zaynab reading


Zaynab was 12 years old and in the third year of primary school in Hargeisa, Somaliland, when AET established a library in her school. Before joining the school, Zaynab and her family lived in a rural area south of Hargeisa rearing sheep and goats on the arid plains. Moving to Hargesia gave Zaynab and her siblings the opportunity to go to school – something which they were very happy about.

Zaynab flourished in school. She was a bright pupil who regularly participated in class and made frequent visits to the school library. Her Headmaster and other teachers in the school were impressed by the progress she made in her studies. Encouraged by her teachers, she spoke English in class, in the library, with students, with teachers and even her family at home.

Zaynab’s progress was certainly influenced by her love of reading. She persuaded the school librarian to allow her to borrow books from the library and read as many books as she could in her spare time. Zaynab read everything available – story books, science, English, environment, social studies – all the materials she could find.


Zaynab in the library


When asked how she feels about reading she said:

“I enjoy reading. I feel that I am in another wonderful world when reading cultural books (different people, dresses, foods, wildlife and children stories). It’s a blessing that AET has provided me a wonderful opportunity which enabled me to improve my education, experiences and awareness on the enjoyable world around us.”

Zaynab is now the Chief Editor of an English newspaper published and produced quarterly by her school.


Find out more about our partnership with AET and our work in Somalia below.

Photos supplied by Africa Educational Trust.