Getting books to rural communities
We are proud to support libraries in a range of environments across sub-Saharan Africa, including some that are so remote that they are inaccessible by motor vehicles.
Dr Obadiah Moyo, founder of the Rural Libraries & Resources Development Programme (RLRDP), shares how his organisation is transporting brand new books, donated by Book Aid International, to some of Zimbabwe’s most remote communities using donkey libraries.
The organisation I founded (RLRDP) establishes and supports libraries in rural communities here in Zimbabwe, many of which experience extreme poverty. Work is in short supply and those who do work are often farm workers or miners, barely earning enough money to keep their families fed.
“We believe that to pull these rural communities out of poverty we need to surround children with books and knowledge, and give them the tools they need to improve their lives.”
Reaching these communities can be challenging – some we reach by truck, some by bicycle and some, the most rural, by donkey. Donkeys are used in Zimbabwe in many ways, from getting children to school to fetching water, and many years ago I asked myself ‘why can’t we use them to get books into schools’?
In 1995 I piloted the first donkey-drawn mobile cart library and I’m proud that today we have 15 carts delivering books to rural schools. Each cart can carry up to 1,200 books and the majority of these are provided by Book Aid International.
The donkeys are donated by members of the community, and villagers actually compete to ensure their donkeys are used because they know they are advancing education within their local community, and this brings prestige.
The evidence of this advancement is clear for all to see. In one school we support, Inyathi Secondary School, a strong reading culture has developed among students and O-Level pass rates have soared, from just 6% in 2009 to 75% last year! Children who use the library every day are now dreaming of their future careers and opportunities.
When the cart is approaching a school, the excitement from the children is wonderful to see as they rush out to greet it. But it isn’t simply a case of unloading the cart and moving on. The cart stays for the whole day; the children explore the books, sharing what they’ve read, and local storytellers from the community come to bring stories to life. It really is a day to spread the concept of reading and to develop the reading culture we are all working towards.
The books that Book Aid International send are far ranging – from phonics books to help children learn to read, to educational books which help them pass their exams and storybooks to inspire a lifelong love of reading – but what they all have in common is that they can help to improve the lives of the children living in Zimbabwe’s rural communities.
Find out more about our work in Zimbabwe and the mobile libraries we support below.