Ethiopia day five: public libraries, a school and an NGO

Rob continues his trip across Ethiopia.

Day 5: public libraries, a school and an NGO

Another day criss-crossing Addis, this time to see a few more public libraries, a school library and a mothers and children charity or non-governmental organisation (NGO), that have been supported by the British Council, our partner of many years. Addis is becoming a huge city and the City Council’s plans for libraries are big – there must be well over 100 now. The first one I see today is located in an almost built 4 storey youth centre, which will be an impressive facility once complete, containing a café, games centre, IT lab, community hall, as well as the library, which apart from a couple of not yet used table tennis tables, is the only thing in the building at present.

The NGO – the snappily named Mothers and Children Multisectoral Development Organisation or MCMDO – has dedicated staff who are clearly keen to encourage reading. They run a school and let the children into their small resource centre to use the small collection of children’s books. The also run a Scouts Club with reading activities in Amharic on a Saturday and make sure they ask the children about the books they are reading. They also run a youth resource centre where there is a further library.

Lunch is at the Top View restaurant which 7 years ago, when I last came to Addis, did indeed have a Top View right across Addis and the mountains behind. But Addis is creeping up its hills so the view is still good but perhaps not the top one any more!

The Catholic School is quite well resourced, and it shows. I talk to a class of children in Grade 3 (aged about 8) whose English is very good, which is rare at such an age in Ethiopia. Asked if they like books, they quickly respond, ‘I like The Little Dinosaur!’ and ‘I like The Giant Tortoise!’ A small boy gets up and tells a tale in English about a thief who stole some gold.

There are actually two schools, an elementary and high school, and both have libraries. Book Aid International books such as GCSE Biology have clearly been used and the Director promotes an ethos of reading amongst teachers and pupils. In the elementary school, teachers borrow books to take to their classes. Schools in Addis are noticeable for being high rise – with space in the city at a premium many schools are 5 or 6 storeys high, and quite unlike the typical African school.

I end the day with the staff of CODE Ethiopia, eating the traditional Ethiopian dish, njera, which is a giant, sour, spongy pancake or flatbread accompanied by various spiced meats. It leaves me feeling quite spiced out.

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