Books that give hope
Books open up a new world, spread knowledge and guide the development of children. However, 260 million children across the world are still growing up without access to them.
Malawi is one of the countries where books are most difficult to find, especially in rural areas. With three quarters of its population still living below the international poverty line of less than 1.25 dollars per day, attending school is not one of the priority consideration among many of the most economically deprived rural families. The enrollment rate for primary school students is 87%. By the time students have moved on to secondary school, costing 75 to 250 US dollars a year, this figure drops to only 18%.
“Books are very difficult to obtain in Malawi. There are no bookstores selling new books, and if there were, they would be expensive anyway. Our culture has a strong oral tradition and reading has not come easily. We have suffered from a severe shortage of books. With little to read, reading has not been a popular activity. We are trying to change that”, explains Kafele, who works as a teacher at one of the 4 Teacher Training Colleges established and run by DAPP in Malawi.
The center, located in Chilangona, a rural area in the South of the country, began to partner with the American organization African Library Project (ALP) in 2008 with the aim of guaranteeing children’s access to books. Since then, they have opened 172 libraries and reached more than 230,000 new readers. “We provide eager new teachers in rural primary schools, who are freshly trained in library management skills and ALP provides books, a structured system and support“, affirms Kafele.
Dulani, a 13 year-old boy, had never held a book in his hands until he set foot in the library DAPP in Malawi and the African Library Project opened in his home-town four years ago. He has become an avid reader ever since. “Reading makes you wiser. I dream of visiting other worlds and meeting other people. I hold hope in my heart that I can have a better future thanks to books”, he explains.
85% of the students who graduate from the DAPP Malawi Teacher Training Colleges request placement in rural schools. “Our graduates are standing ready to develop children into good students. They know books are essential in this process and so they are eager to learn how to manage a simple library”, affirms Kafele. Those student teachers who successfully complete their course are able to apply for a library for the school in which they are placed. Besides this, DAPP in Malawi offers pedagogical workshops with ALP books to the whole community.
Both DAPP in Malawi and the African Library Project hope to make this an ongoing project and open up to 60 new libraries per year in primary schools in rural Malawi.
To read more about the projects of DAPP Malawi, go towww.dapp-malawi.org