Category Archives: libraries

Ethiopia day six: to Uganda

Rob’s last few hours in Ethiopia take him to the next country on his tour of Book Aid International partners: Uganda.

A morning flight from Addis takes with to the lush greenness of Uganda. I am picked up by Bernard Bamuhiiga, the librarian at Kyambogo University in Kampala, one of our main partners.

Bernard, takes me for a fresh fish lunch by Lake Victoria. An hour or so before, it looked like the plane I was on was trying to land on the lake! In the late afternoon, Gertrude Mulindwa, the Librarian from the National Library, whom I’ve known for some time now, pops by my hotel, and we catch up and talk a little about the needs of libraries in Uganda, especially in the area of children’s librarianship.

The National Library is our other main partner. Over the next week I will see a combination of public and community libraries supported by the National Library, and school and college libraries supported by Kyambogo University.

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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.

Ethiopia day four: back in prison

Rob’s journey continues to Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia day four: back in prison

Once again for Book Aid International, I find myself in prison.

After prison visits in Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Kenya, I now end up a prison on the outskirts of Addis Ababa. The reason of course is that wherever our books go, BAI staff need to follow. Books have been provided for the prison via our partner, the Ethiopian Knowledge and

Technology Transfer Society (EKTTS) which is distributing books to public libraries in Addis and prisons.

The prison is very impressive and has a strong rehabilitation programme including technical and vocational skills such as carpentry and weaving workshops, an education programme ranging from high school studies to accountancy and IT, and an IT lab with computers from Computer Aid International who also work with EKTTS. There are two libraries – one for prisoners studying for high school examinations and one for vocational and professional studies. Books for children are needed because mothers have to keep their children with them in prison if there is no family to look after them. Yemisrch Akalu, the Head of the Department for the Rehabilitation of Prisoners, is clearly proud and says that ‘we have brilliant students’ and that ‘working with prisoners gives you satisfaction of the mind’. This is quite a turnaround for a country that used to have a very repressive prison system.

Following the prison visit, we visit a number of public libraries across different parts of Addis Ababa, with an interlude for a burst tyre in between! EKTTS has recently distributed books from the last Book Aid International consignment to 8 libraries and we visit most of them, which range from a library in a shanty town-style corrugated iron building to brand new libraries that are part of the city’s drive to construct more libraries (sadly this does not extend yet to stocking them or staffing them with trained librarians). It is too early to know the impact these books will have, but it is a significant increase in stock for most libraries, which typically have around 100-200 users a day. Although many of the librarians are untrained, they fulfill a basic caretaker role to keep the library going for the use mainly of high school students. More training would allow them to take a more active role and engage younger children too.

Many of the areas around the libraries are undergoing great change – the shanty towns or ‘villages’ in the city are being demolished to make way for new buildings with the residents relocated into newly built condominiums a bit further out of the city. Most people seem to think that this is a fair deal, including the Director of EKTTS, who himself has been relocated, but it makes parts of Addis look like a war zone! EKTTS themselves are in no danger of relocation – they have free office space in a building owned by the great Ethiopian marathon runner, Haile Gebrselassie, and their warehouse space is provided free by a well known Ethiopian construction company.

Ethiopia day two

This is the second of our special reports from Rob, head of programmes and operations as he visits some of our projects in Ethiopia. Here’s Rob: 

Ethiopia day two: reading rooms and marabou storks

In the morning, we drive a short way to Mojo to see one of CODE Ethiopia’s reading rooms, and then another short drive to see another reading room at Alem Tena. Book Aid International has been working with CODE Ethiopia for 12 years and provided over 100,000 books for their reading room programme, which has helped established community libraries all over Ethiopia. Together with books from the International Book Bank in the US and a significant range of local publications, many produced by CODE Ethiopia themselves, Book Aid International books make up a good proportion of the target 5,500 books for each library over 5 years.

The two libraries I visit have about 4,500 books so far after 4 years of support. The libraries are busy with students, one of whom, Ashenah Jambo from Mojo High School. He likes the library because there are a range of textbooks and wider reference books which will not only help him to pass exams but ultimately to become a professor at university. He tells me that ‘textbooks are not enough’ because ‘you should refer to different sources to develop your ability and adapt your knowledge’.

CODE Ethiopia’s programme works because they offer a mixture of donated books from abroad, local books, and training for teacher-librarians and library committees. However, it is a partnership model with the local community who need to provide a building and local education officers, who pay the librarian’s salaries. Tesfaye Dubale, the director, has also written some stories which are published as big books and are proving very popular in the libraries.

On the way back to Addis, we pass a Rift Valley lake, with a large number of marabou storks wading at the edge. The storks walk like old men but fly with grace but unfortunately close up look like ugly vultures with a pink sac falling from its neck, and their shape from behind gets them the nickname the undertaker bird!


A special report from Ethiopia

At Book Aid International, our job isn’t just about sending books to sub-Saharan Africa. It’s also to support local organisations and communities in running their libraries, to help them share these rich resources, and to assess just how much a difference is made through our work. That’s what Rob, our head of programmes and operations, is doing in Ethopia at the moment – so we thought we’d share some of Rob’s observations and impressions as they come back to us. This will be the first of six blog posts, stay tuned for the next five!

Day one: dinner by moonlight

After arriving in Addis Ababa yesterday I am on the road to Nazareth, or Adama as it was originally known by the locals and is officially once again. But Nazareth is what many people still call this large busy town of trade, agriculture and commerce. I visit two libraries that Book Aid International has supported in conjunction with our local partner CODE Ethiopia, and with funding from Aggreko plc.

The first library is at Dembela High School and even though our books have only recently arrived, they are already organised and on the shelves. CODE Ethiopia trained the library committee late last year, including staff from the neighbouring elementary school which borders onto the high school and is sharing the library, and also advised on the purchase of local books, which we were able to provide funds for in this project. We also provided funds for furniture and shelves which were built by the local vocational school.

The library is busy with enthusiastic students, one of whom, Biniam Beneberu Ayere, tells me that, ‘in my class there a lot of students that have a lack of habit of reading’, and lack the knowledge they need. ‘So how can I get these kinds of knowledge? Because of this library. Before this library was opened, I had no habit of reading but because of you (Book Aid International) and the initiatives of our teachers, we come here to read and we read a lot of books and get a lot of knowledge…so let us read and let’s change our lives, let’s change our country, and let’s help our families.’

It is clear the school is benefitting hugely from the library and is appreciative of the support we have provided. The same project has helped set up a library in the youth centre just down the road from the school. The books from the UK have not been processed yet but the library has been set up and is very popular on Saturdays. In the week it is only open on Wednesday and Friday but they are hoping the local district government will fund it better in the future.

In the evening, I eat dinner by moonlight (the electricity failed after 10 minutes) by a fountain (with no water) in a rather nice garden restaurant with staff from CODE Ethiopia and the local educational zonal administrator. I go to bed still with a slight tingling sensation in my mouth – a result of the Ethiopians love for chillies in their cooking!

“Every book has the power to change lives”

“A library can be in a building, or it can be mobile, delivering books by truck, motorbike, cycle, donkey or camel. But no matter what form they take, Book Aid International supports libraries in sub-Saharan Africa because we know that every book has the power to change lives – and that libraries are the right way to get books directly into the hands of readers.”

We recently found these words from Book Aid International’s director, Clive Nettleton, which sums things up pretty well.

Just one week till World Book Day!

So today is the last Thursday before 3 March 2011. Which means we’ve just one week to go till World Book Day!

If you’re planning to do something on or around the day itself, now’s the time to spread the word. Tell your friends, family and more know what you’re up to. And don’t forget that Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are here to help you get the word out faster. While you’re about it, feel free to let us know your plans here on the blog, or through our Facebook or Twitter, using the hashtag #worldbookday2011. You can share any pictures you take there, or on our  World Book Day group.

If you’re still looking for inspiration for your World Book Day celebrations, check out these people who have excited us with what they are up to

And, just in case you need any reminder about why your support for World Book Day is so important, remember that, with your help, books change lives.