Australian Books for Children of Africa (ABCA) has reached its 100 milestone, by distributing over 160,000 books to over 100 schools and institutions in Africa. ‘We are proud that the Nkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital in Kwazaulu Natal, South Africa was the 100th recipient of ABCA books’, said an ABCA representative.
Since its inception in 2003, ABCA has distributed books to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and Ghana thanks to help from Australian and African volunteers. ‘We hope that by giving children access to educational material they will be able to get a reasonable education or certainly a better education than is currently available to them’, highlighted ABCA
‘Teachers really jump for joy when they open the parcels. Pupils in upper classes use the books for their reading programmes and narrate stories or share their discoveries to the little ones’, exclaimed Maria Chibansa of Saint Nicholas Community Care centre in Lusaka, Zambia.
Although various factors are present, many African schools are struggling with resources to educate students. This affects their capacity to retain and engage students in higher education. In fact, in Zimbabwe the attendance rate at primary school is over 85%, but once entering secondary education the attendance rate drops to below 50% (source UNICEF). South Africa fairs a little better, with over 90% of students attending primary school, however, the gap between the wealthy and poorer schools is vast.
‘The majority of children in rural Africa are impoverished and deprived of adequate educational resources. In Africa books are treasured as many schools do not have a library or sufficient text books’, highlighted ABCA.
ABCA sends surplus educational materials and second hand books from Australia to less privileged communities in Africa. They source books and educational material from schools, libraries, publishers and households and distribute these to schools that lack basic educational materials.
‘We are fortunate to receive a never ending supply of books from generous Australian donors and therefore only send books that are in good condition to our African students. Given the cost of shipping and the respect we have for our recipient students it is important that we donate books that are of good quality and of benefit to the students,’ highlighted ABCA.
Once books are sent to Africa, volunteers and representatives ensure that the books are delivered to recipient schools. ‘We provide books to educators who are passionate about providing the best possible education for their students, despite the lack of adequate resources available to them’, emphasised ABCA.
These books are received with enthusiasm by the local schools and children. One letter of appreciation, which had one of the most beautiful sentiments about books, was expressed by Zuma Makhoba a student from Kwazulu Natal, South Africa who wrote: ‘Books just take my imagination to another level. Thank you for the experience of having wonderful books to give us knowledge and wisdom we lack.’
ABCA do not just donate books and leave. They try to report and catalogue books and track the use and suitability towards the curriculum. ‘Our African representatives keep in contact with the schools to which the books are distributed. They are therefore able to report whether books donated were appropriate for the students and whether the books are adequately protected and preserved by the school’, said ABCA.
This project is an enormous effort and is proving to be a tremendous success. ‘It is our belief that it is mainly through education that these children will be equipped to rise above the impoverished conditions into which they were born. Money may provide a temporary shelter but will never empower those who live on handouts’, concluded ABCA.
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