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Education Worldwide

Promoting School Libraries in Kenya

In Kenya, establishing school libraries for making learning material more easily available to students and teachers lack behind quickly rising primary school net enrolment rate. The primary school net enrolment rate indicates the ratio of children of the official primary school age who are enrolled in primary school to the total population of the official primary school age.

The Worldbank database shows that, for Kenya, this rate increased from 56 percent in 1998 to 83 percent in 2009 (last available data). On the other hand, Dr. Henry Kinya states in the paper Development of school libraries in Kenya (PDF) that only 2 percent of primary schools have a library.

The Kenyan initiative Start a Library tackles this issue. It encourages people to become a Reading Ambassador. The Reading Ambassadors sponsor book packages for school libraries. Start a Library has created five book package categories: Bronze Sponsor, Silver Sponsor, Gold Sponsor, Diamond Sponsor as well as Platinum Sponsor available from 25 USD to 715 USD.

These book packages contain activity books such as Wimbo wa matatus, an English and Swahili counting book told in song. High quality local storybooks that reflect the children's world with appropriate characters and illustrations are included, too. For instance, Matatu from Watamu tells a story about a rude rasta matatu driver and its tout, an octopus driving in the Indian Ocean. Gamba the Gecko is a story about a dream to play drums.

Book packages, according to their levels, contain 5 books (Bronze level) ideal as a classroom gift and up to 105 books (Diamond level) suited for a library. The Diamond Sponsorship seems to be specially attractive for organizations and enterprises because they will enjoy some PR and branding by Start a Library.

Once the Reading Ambassadors have bought enough books in order to make a difference for a specific school, Start a Library organizes an installation at the school's site. This event features a storytelling session with the aim to get kids excited about the books and to acquaint the teachers with the content of (some of) the books.

Little Rock School, a primary school located in Kibera, the largest slum of Nairobi, was the first one where Start a Library set up a donated library. This was in 2012. To date, Start a Library could reach almost 4,000 children in nine schools, and eleven more schools are already lining up in the program.

Among the Reading Ambassadors are prominent Kenyan figures such as the singer Habido Ebo or the writer Tony Machoba. Partners of Start a Library are the British Council, City Council of Education, Story Moja and Edu' Kenya.