Libraries – the beating heart of a school

Written by Mathilde

Running since 2013, Link Ethiopia’s Libraries and Literacy project aims to improve the literacy ability of students in more than 40 schools across Ethiopia, as well as promoting the pure fun of reading for young children. As we reach the end of the second year of the project we are so pleased to observe the dramatic and important changes taking place.

In 2013 the Waterloo Foundation helped us to start the project in 20 schools. With additional support from Jolly Phonics, from school partners here in the UK and from individual donors we have been able to expand the project to 46 schools in total, so far.

The library improvement aspect of the project encouraged schools to develop the library facilities available to their students. Each school was given a small grant to contribute to this improvement, along with guidance, training and ongoing support. A total of 4000 ETB was awarded, with 2000 ETB for books and 2000 ETB to enhance the library environment.

Some examples of the changes made possible by the libraries improvement programme can be seen below:

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The library improvement in Aste Bekafa Elementary School is clear for all to see.

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Kera Hora Elementary School have been able to build a brand new library

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The new library in Adama No. 6 Elementary school offers more space and a greater choice of books

To improve the libraries, a ‘Library Award’ scheme was also included in the project. Throughout the year, schools had the opportunity to work towards one of three library awards: bronze, silver or gold. These awards were assessed on the basis of 42 criteria points which included the number of books lent; attractiveness; usability; library club and opening hours. This scheme really worked, encouraging schools to improve their libraries across the board. In 2014-15, we have seen many libraries move up to award scale; by the end of the year over half the schools were achieving silver or gold.

The award achievements have a direct impact on the amount of students reading and the amount of books they read. Through the library award scheme we have increased the number of schools lending at least 25 books a week from 3 to 17, and those lending 50 books from 1 to 7.

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The library of Time’s Choice Academy is really busy

Focusing on one element of the library award criteria; we observed that at the beginning of the year there were just two schools where at least 80 students a week visited the library and one school where at least 150 visited. At the end of the year, these numbers have increased to 17 and 7 respectively.

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Sincil Sports College and Times Choice Academy

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Barlaston First School and Adama No. 6 Elementary

We also asked our UK schools – some of whom had raised funds so their Ethiopian partners could be part of the Libraries & Literacy project – to share images of their libraries with us to help librarians in Ethiopia visualise the possibilities for their own literacy environment. This encouragement was really helpful and now many of the improved libraries in Ethiopian schools display the images from their partner school on the walls. For larger collections head over to our photo site.

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Kera Hora Elementary and Hankham Primary

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Brackenbury Primary and Beza Elementary

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St. Stephens CE Primary and Atse Bekafa Elementary

The Libraries and Literacy project has been a real success. The children, teaching and librarian staff have made fantastic improvements over the past year, and we look forward to seeing this continue.

Together We Learn - Ethiopia