The Zanzibar archipelago off mainland Tanzania has many remote schools in communities with no access to libraries and many schools have no resource or space for a library of their own. We worked together with our partners Zanzibar Library Service (ZLS) and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) to meet the challenge of this remote environment.
Our School Library in a Box project brings books to children who might otherwise have no opportunity to read. Each school in the project receives two locally made wooden boxes, each containing 350 books (one box of English books and one of Kiswahili books). The book boxes are portable so that children can carry them from one classroom to another, meaning the whole school can enjoy the books we send. We also provide training, through VSO, for two teacher librarians per school and we encourage a scheme for student librarians to learn the basics of library management while they are still in school.
The project, created with ZLS and VSO, to meet the challenges of a specific region and environment, has proved so successful that we have expanded the project in the Zanzibar archipelago as well as to Kagera, a region in mainland Tanzania around Lake Victoria. Since we launched this project, 99 schools have been involved, almost 200 book boxes have been distributed, 220 teacher librarians have attended training and around 57,000 children have benefited from the books we send.
A teacher in Zanzibar told us the impact these portable book collections were having on the children in her school:
“… they get ideas concerning the syllabus through reading the books. They have increased understanding, they know how to read well and read frequently, they know how to narrate the story after reading the book. There are some books in the boxes that are on the syllabus and teachers also use these to plan lessons. Their performance is increasing .”
Fatima Makame Mtwana, Teacher, Kikobweni Primary School, Zanzibar