(Please see video of the school and The Children's Book Project in action at bottom of post.)
In one of the world’s poorest countries, it’s not easy providing free primary education for all.
Too often there is a lack of basic infrastructure. Children learn as best they can crammed into sterile concrete rooms, some with floors of gravel.
It’s difficult to promote literacy when a school doesn’t have library books. The few available textbooks are shared one for every four or five students Yet the library at Miembeni primary school in Dar es Salaam is a relative oasis. There are bookshelves that hold a wealth of reading – 485 books at last count.
In the underprivileged area of Vingunguti , books in the local language of Kiswahili are a luxury. In fact, the Children’s Book Project, which provides the school and 110 other school libraries with books, is the primary developer of children’s storybooks in Kiswahili.
Although classroom space is a precious commodity in government schools, where up to 200 students can cram a single class, Miembeni Primary has decided to dedicate space to a library.
The walls are alive with color from the numbers painted in canary and coral to the hand-drawn posters. There’s a paper mache giraffe learning on a bookshelf and several hand drawn portraits of current and past leaders. Each decoration demonstrates how far students and teachers have come in developing and using teaching aids.
Grade 3 student Balozi Tesha is among the students visiting the library one afternoon. He is reading his favorite book, Maandazi Matamu. It’s a book about snacks and he says he likes it because it teaches how to eat a balanced diet. Tesha speaks in confident, even tones as he explains in Kiswahili that if it were not for the school’s library, he would go to the national library.
Balozi says he likes the library because it will help him get educated and be aware of different issues. One day he hopes to become a pilot.
As a testament to the students’ dedication to the program, it is the students who are responsible to help clean, maintain and operate the library. The program is paying dividends and Miembeni primary regularly comes out with several awards given out by the Children’s Book Project each year to recognize children.
The improvement can be seen in cold, hard numbers too. Pass rates in the primary school leaving exam have gone from 65 per cent in 2002 to 89 per cent last year.
A real reading success story in Tanzanea thanks to people who care about kids and their future.