Here’s Rob once more, with an update on organisations we work with in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia day three: books for development
I start the day discussing potential support to an organisation Book Aid International has not supported yet, the Jerusalem Children and Community Development Organization (JeCCDO), who run an impressive range of community development programmes particularly in improving access to basic services such as education and health. As part of this, they have a community library and information resource centre programme and have set up four public libraries. These are all outside of Addis but it sounds like they get very busy and I am shown pictures of well organised and attractive libraries, that hold regular activities such as storytelling – unfortunately a somewhat alien concept in relation to books and libraries here in Ethiopia.
JeCCDO works with a wide range of community based organisations and would also benefit from Book Aid International’s ‘Books for Development’ programme which provides specialist books for NGOs and community organisations in areas such as agriculture, HIV-AIDS, natural resource management and capacity building. JeCCDO is a member of the next organisation I visit, the Consortium of Christian Relief and Development Agencies or CCRDA. CCRDA is plays the leading role in coordinationg NGOs in Ethiopia and has benefitted from the ‘Books for Development’ programme since it started 6 years ago. It has an impressive resource centre which is frequented in large numbers by local high school students who find it a great study space, so as well as books for NGO workers, the librarian requests books for the students too!
I finish the day visiting an elementary and a high school, both supported by Ethiopia Reads, an organisation that has established school and children’s libraries in Addis and beyond, and a well-known donkey library service in Awassa, for which Book Aid International has provided books in the past. The libraries I see are very well organised and impressive though the book stock, consisting of books mainly from the States and a smaller number of local books, is a bit of a mixture, with a number of local books. One thing that is clear so far on this trip is that despite English being the medium of instruction in secondary schools and an enthusiasm to improve their English by most students, books in English need to be especially relevant and attractive here because there is a very limited reading habit beyond reading curriculum textbooks for exams, and English skills are quite poor.
Ethiopia Reads tries to create more active librarians that will promote the use of books and run book related activities in their libraries and as part of the training it provides for teacher-librarians runs a literacy development component. Such initiatives may really make sure that Ethiopia does indeed read.