Tag Archives: Somaliland

Zanzibar ILD

Speaking up for reading

In September, our partners in fifteen African countries held celebrations to mark International Literacy Day.

Many used it as an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of literacy and reading, introduce more members of the local community to the library and also to highlight literacy and multilingualism – the theme of this year’s International Literacy Day.

Our partners flew the flag for literacy in all manner of locations from national libraries in bustling capital cities to small community libraries in rural areas.

And everyone was invited – and attended – from Government ministers, national TV stations, newspaper journalists to mayors, chiefs, farmers, local NGOs, publishers, authors, and of course teacher, pupils and their parents.

Books you helped to send were used as prizes for participating schools, providing 100s of new, inspiring children’s books for them to add to their library collections.

Here, our partners tell us more about how they marked the day – and the impact it has had in their communities:


Cameroon ILD participants


“EISERVI library is located in Yaounde, the political capital of Cameroon. The city today is made of all ethnic groups in Cameroon and many people work as civil servants. Ongoing conflict means that IDPs are flocking to the city and school class sizes are swelling meaning that children have to share books often one between ten.

The library serves the community of Yaounde and Cameroon in general with books to meet the needs and aspirations of children and adults, academics and entrepreneurs.

Our International Literacy Day celebrations included speeches, a spelling bee, a tour of the library, poem presentations, cultural dances and a fashion parade. The activities showcased the different languages in Cameroon and students also held a debate on ‘can literacy be acquired through multilingualism?’

The children were so happy to see and access a large variety of books in a well organised library.”

I have discovered as a teacher that I still have a lot to do with my pupils concerning reading and other literacy activities. This event is a spring board for me.

– Mr Effa Joseph, Head Teacher, Government Bilingual Primary School.

“Some of the children who attended the event now come to the library after school. You can see the excitement in them as they read. Some even ask for books to read at home with their siblings.”


ETHIOPIA  – Cheffe Donsa Community Library

CODE Ethiopia‘s Cheffe Donsa Community Library supports a suburban community living about 57km outside Addis Ababa. While it is suburban, it needs further support and the community’s participation in the library is encouraging.

Our celebrations included poem presentations, reading testimonies by library users and contests between students.”

Our library set our community free from darkness. It is our university.

– An elderly participant.

GHANA  – Eastern Regional Library

Ghana Library Authority‘s celebrations were held at our Eastern Regional Library in the city of Koforidua.

Students recited poetry, performed traditional adowa dances and recited books they have read. We also held a six-book challenge in the run up in which students read six books and had to summarise each. We awarded participating students at the ceremony.”

It’s been barely a week but more kids are visiting our library after the event and now parents are making it mandatory that they come to the library even if they cannot read with them at home.

– Koforidua Library

KENYA – knls Lusumu Community Library

“This year’s celebrations were held at knls Lusumu branch library in Kakamega County, Western Kenya. The library is situated in a village where people are predominantly crop farmers and some also rear animals. There is a lot of poverty here and parents are determined to educate their children. The library was opened in 2009 to support parents in this effort – and provide a resource centre for the whole community.

There were songs, a drama, speeches based on literacy celebration. The Kakamega County Governor HE Prof Philip Kutima urged Members of Parliament within the region to consider establishing libraries within their constituencies.”

Books were given to participating schools for their libraries and many of them acknowledged that they had very few supplementary reading books in their schools.

“Following the event we have had an increase in visits, more enquiries about our services, especially from schools who want to know how they can be involved in future library events and registering as institutional members.”



Grace Rwanda‘s celebrations were held at both the Nyamagabe Youth Centre Library in Nyamagabe and Vision Jeunesse Nouvelle Library in Rubavu. Residents in Nyamagabe live on low income and are mostly farmers. The literacy rate is still moderate.”

“The ceremonies started with traditional dance to songs on the theme of reading and writing in different languages. There were speeches read aloud in Kinyarwanda, French and English. There were also spelling bees, reading aloud, debates and storytelling activities. We also had a display of donated books.

The event really helped promote the libraries and books to the wider communities.”

We were seeking books and we had to look elsewhere but now we have this library it will help us so much.

– Kagame Gad, Primary 6 student.

SIERRA LEONE – Sierra Leone Library Board HQ

“Sierra Leone Library Board’s Headquarters Library in Freetown is in a community dominated by workers, students and a few business people. The library accommodates users from all walks of life from toddlers to elderly people.

Our International Literacy Day activities included a story competition in local languages, a melodrama set to local songs and a demonstration of our French lessons for children. There was also a short skit entitled Had I Known about the importance of having reading and writing skills in your local language because you never know when you will need it. All competitions were also done in the local dialect.”

The celebration of this day each year has helped to raise awareness about reading.

SOMALILAND – Silanyo National Library


Somaliland ILD


“The Silanyo National Library is in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland. It’s the nation’s first national library and serves school pupils, teachers, university students and other members of the public.

Our International Literacy Day celebrations included a quiz for the school children covering science, geography and history in which they had to answer the questions in either Somali, Arabic or English.”

As a result of the celebrations, school teachers that attended have since decided to set a specific time for reading during their school hours.

TANZANIA – Tanga Regional Library

“Tanga Regional Library is a public library run by the Tanzania Library Services Board. The Tanga region is a coastal community where inhabitants mostly engage in fishing, crop cultivation and small-scale business. There is also an urban community of professionals and students.

Our International Literacy Day activities included a library tour, a spelling competition, a reading competition, and cultural entertainment. We also invited all audience members to select a book and read it for pleasure.

The day after the event, parents and teachers brought their children to the library to register for the book club and also to join as members.”

This is the most interesting educational programme I ever expected a local library could organise.

– Mrs Miriam Magambo, parent.

While reading is basic to learning it is also basic to survival. Lack of reading is disasterous because reading is a most efficient way of acquiring knowledge and a source of achieving sound development of our minds … A public library is a place designed to freely support the attainment of those purposes.

Abdulatif Famao, Torf Book Club CEO.

UGANDA – Nambi Sseppuuya Community Resource Centre

“The Nambi Sseppuuya Community Resource Centre is based in a rural community whose basic activity is subsistence farming. The centre is an inititative to contribute to the fight against poverty, illiteracy and disease through education and provision of reading materials.

Our activities on International Literacy Day included reading for pleasure, read alouds, storytelling, poem recitals, letter and reading games.”

The head teacher of a school just across the Nile River came back to the resource centre to thank us and to inform us that the children desired to visit the centre regularly.

“Many people who had not been to this resource centre are now visiting and calling up.”

ZAMBIA – Soloboni Primary School library

“Most of the community around this library are not in formal employment. Most of them are self-employed with no stable income.

Soloboni Primary School’s library serves both the learners and the surrounding community.

Zambia Library Service held a two day event at the school. On the first day schools competed against each other in reading competitions. On the second, pupils led a literacy parade which included a brass band and majorettes, plus book and poetry readings and debates. We also had a reading tent where young readers could enjoy books.”

There’s been an increase in the interest in books. The staff in charge of the reading tent were overwhelmed with the influx of children wanting to read.

ZANZIBAR – Unguja Public Library

“Community members’ activities in Unguja include small business, fishing and tourism. The library serves the general community from children to adults.

At Zanzibar Library Services’ celebrations we had a demonstration in which participants took slogans and pictures that promoted the culture of reading, there was a library tour and students performed a drama highlighting the importance of using the library. There was also drawing, a quiz and a book exhibition which included multilingual books that are essential for community development.”

As a result of the celebrations, many more children have been introduced to the library and the services it offers.

“The local community are now more ready to support the development of library services in Zanzibar.”


Our partners also held celebrations in the Gambia, Liberia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

Children's Corner a MYSA Library

October Book of the Month

Our Book of the Month for October is:

A Woman of Firsts
A Woman of Firsts by Edna Adan Ismail

This is an unputdownable memoir by a truly inspiring woman, Edna Adan Ismail.

As the title suggests, Edna really is a woman of firsts. She was Somaliland’s first midwife and later went on to become the country’s First Lady and the first female cabinet minister.

From the blurb:

The daughter of Somaliland’s best-loved doctor, Edna saw first-hand how poor healthcare, lack of education and ancient superstitions had a devastating effects on Somaliland’s people, especially its women.

After experiencing the horrors of FGM as a child and seeing the dangers of childbirth at her father’s hospital Edna’s main focus throughout her life has been to campaign for better women’s healthcare.


A Woman of Firsts insides


But it has been far from easy. When growing up, it wasn’t traditional for girls to receive an education. And when she started work as a hospital midwife, she was met with hostility, given no salary and even had to fight to be allowed to drive. The hospital had not encountered a trained female nurse before.

Today Edna is the director of the maternity and teaching hospital that she built and founded in Hargeisa, Somaliand’s capital, the Edna Adan Maternity Hospital. It is described as one of the Horn of Africa’s finest university hospitals.

In spite of holding governmental positions, Edna believes this hospital is her greatest achievement. Her aim is to see as many women trained in midwifery as possible in order to improve healthcare for women in Somaliland and beyond,  preventing much suffering families and ultimately saving lives.

This moving and true story of a remarkable woman who overcame many obstacles to make a difference in Somaliland and the wider African continent will be an inspiration to women and girls across the world. It will be particularly poignant for women in Africa who will relate to many of the challenges Edna has faced.

Copies of this book will be going to the Somaliland National Library in Hargeisa where we hope it will inspire the next generation of women determined to bring about change for the good of other women and the wider community.

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.