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Blog category: Volunteering

Andinet’s new classroom – a success story

Written by Rhi and Ama

Ethiopia is still a country of economic divides. Although there has been major progress recently, there is still an obvious gap between urban and rural areas in terms of basics such as education, sanitation and development. In the countryside, an agricultural way of life often means that time is limited, as rearing livestock and tending crops leaves little to spare. The schooling resources for rural areas are often scarce. Educational facilities are lacking, and the school buildings themselves can be old, unsafe, with poor structural integrity and reduced light and space.

As part of our rural education campaign, Link Ethiopia has been working with Girlguiding North East England and AidCamps International to rebuild schools and classrooms in the satellite developments and farming communities around Gondar. Structures that are bright, airy and welcoming are provided, as well as having more space and facilities for the children using them. This is important because with limited space, schools may not have capacity for all the children, or be able to offer education past a certain age. This means many children cannot continue in education, as the travel to the next nearest school that offers further education can simply be too much, leaving them no time to complete domestic or agricultural tasks required, let alone tackle homework. Each additional year of schooling increases a person’s earning potential by 10%, meaning that the possibility of lifting an area out of poverty becomes more of an attainable goal with the correct infrastructure in place.

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A typical classroom in a rural area

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Andinet School is one of the most recent school partners in this joint partnership. The school previously had a rundown set of classrooms, with lumpy stone floors, poor roofing, and unplastered walls. Originally built from traditional wood and mud, one in particular had fallen into a state of disrepair and was no longer serviceable as a building. Providing little shelter from the elements, the classroom was a difficult environment for young children to be in. As a small space, access was restricted and some of the children could not progress to higher grades.

Link Ethiopia worked with the local community to discuss what they needed out of a new school building. A double classroom was planned, allowing children the space and security they need to continue their education. We had worked with a volunteer architect on previous school projects, and the structural changes she had suggested to improve the life of the classrooms were also implemented here. This included plastering the mud and wood, metal shutters for security at night and use of a wooden cross beam to prevent lean on the building.

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Our volunteers and their hardwork

Link Ethiopia partnered with Girlguiding North East England and AidCamps International over the last few years to fundraise for, and sign up volunteers, to open this vital resource for children in rural Ethiopia. AidCamps team of volunteers were motivated and engaged with the project, and helped ensure the building was completed on time. A number of Girlguides will also be going out this year to continue the restoration and improvement work at Andinet School – this will be their 2nd visit.

The classroom was opened in plenty of time for the Summer term. Representatives from the education authority and the local kebele attended, as did the school director. The project build had been challenging in places, liaising between contractors, volunteers and the local authorities, so we were delighted to have opened on time and to see the difference this build will make straight away. The classroom is spacious and a positive space for children to develop and learn in. Having previously had to finish educating children at grade 3, the school now plans to educate children up to grade 5. The opportunities this will provide for the local children are huge.


The new classroom in use

Link aims to build a further 20 new classrooms in rural areas, with a focus on schools that cannot currently offer all grades. For more about how to get involved, you can read our page here.

Posted in 2016, Classrooms and furniture, Project expeditions, Projects, Uncategorized, Volunteering |

Success of Libraries and Literacy project

by Hannah Dillon

125 teachers and 46 librarians trained, 736 individual reading tests carried out, hundreds of school visits completed and 31 library certificates awarded. Phew! All this can only mean one thing: this month we are celebrating the successful completion of the second year of our Libraries and Literacy project.

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The project, which this year included 46 Ethiopian schools, was the brainchild of our out-going Country Director, Belayneh Shewaye and our former UK Projects Manager, Shree Mandke. They wanted to promote a culture of reading and, at the same time, combat low literacy levels in schools. Of course, there is no quick fix, so we came up with a project that begins to address some of the barriers to literacy and enjoyment of reading experienced by children and adults alike.

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Foka dec 2014 (8)Our research told us to focus on the first years of primary school, because if children fall behind in these years, they find it very difficult to catch up later. So, we supported Grade 1 and 2 teachers by training them in how to teach early reading using letter sounds (phonics) and by mentoring them throughout the year. As well as our own scheme, Sounds of English, we also partnered this year with Jolly Phonics, who ran a pilot scheme with us, providing resource packs and a world-class trainer in the form of Shainaz Jussa. We also introduced them to picture books and how to read with their class, as well as a few songs like ‘Head, shoulders, knees and toes’.

 

IMG_9106The teachers overwhelmingly appreciated the training, because they could see how using letter sounds would help children, and because it gave them ideas for teaching in a more fun and interactive way.

To make sure that children would get the benefit of this training, we tested children’s reading at the beginning and the end of the school year. We followed up by visiting lessons regularly and listening to teachers’ difficulties and concerns, as well as giving some on-site training and lesson demonstrations. This made for a very busy year but seeing the transformation in teaching and the real enthusiasm of the children for learning English in this way made it all worth it.

IMG_9863There are still some sounds that teachers haven’t mastered, but squeaking like a mouse for five minutes to try and get a teacher to make the ‘i’ sound correctly is all part of the fun! Following the reading tests, we are now getting down to crunching the numbers. Children in the project schools have increased their score by 21% on average, compared to 6% in other (control) schools. So those with trained teachers are doing 15% better than they would have been without the project!

While public libraries in the UK close in their droves, we are busy widening access to libraries for school children in Ethiopia. As you can imagine, on the whole they do not have books of their own; for example, a USAID study (2010) found that 82% in the Oromia region have no book other than a textbook at home. So libraries are a lifeline for education: a place to study, but also a place to discover the joy of reading. The problem currently is that there is a shortage of relevant and age-appropriate books both in local languages and in English. Therefore, schools were given a small grant to buy the library books they needed and a further grant to make the library more attractive, especially to younger pupils. This included buying soft mats for sitting and reading, posters to decorate the walls and repairing old or damaged equipment. Schools were incentivised to make improvements through Link Ethiopia’s library awards (bronze, silver and gold). These changes, alongside raising the profile of the library at a whole-school level, have led to more children using the library and more children being able to borrow library books.

Find out more about “The regional Reading Bees” another successful Libraries and Literacy project, in our next blog post.

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Posted in 2015, Libraries, books and literacy, Projects, Uncategorized, Volunteering |

World Challenge Projects Summer 2014

By Hannah Dillon and Tefera Teklu

Link Ethiopia’s partnership with World Challenge has cemented with another fruitful year that saw a flurry of construction and painting activities. Cheers to every group of young people who did their part in making sure that access to better education in Ethiopia is fair to all, especially to girls and pupils with disabilities. We hope that you will come back some day to see the changes that have come through your invaluable support.
And here is a summary of what has been done in the summer of 2014:

De Ferres and Bavarian Int.: helped with the construction and decoration of a brand new toilet block for pupils which included access for wheelchair users. (Hora Arsedi)

From De Ferres and Bavarian International to Hora Arsedy School: helping with the construction and decoration of a brand new toilet block for pupils which included access for wheelchair users.

Cairo and UAS Dubai: helped with building a new toilet block by moving materials, as well as creating a beautiful garden. These have made a huge difference to the school. (Kera Hora)

From Cairo and UAS Dubai to Kera Hora Elementary: helped with building a new toilet block by moving materials, as well as creating a beautiful garden. These have made a huge difference to the school.

Henry Floyd: this group provided a much-needed concrete floor to several classrooms and brightened up the school with colourful painting. (Addis Alem)

From Henry Floyd to Addis Alem Elementary: this group provided a much-needed concrete floor to several classrooms and brightened up the school with colourful painting.

From Henry Floyd and John Colet: helped local labourers with the challenge of plastering a classroom and painting the inside ready for kindergarten children.

From Henry Floyd and John Colet: helped local labourers with the challenge of plastering a classroom and painting the inside ready for kindergarten children.

From Winchester College: this group gave a classroom a complete makeover, helping a local builder with cementing the floor and painting the walls. (Tseda)

From Winchester College to Tseda Elementary: this group gave a classroom a complete makeover, helping a local builder with cementing the floor and painting the walls.

 

 

Posted in 2015, Classrooms and furniture, Inclusive education, Projects, Uncategorized, Volunteering, Water and sanitation |

What can learning phonics do for 3 shy sponsored children?

Written by Mathilde

The short answer is – quite a lot! Read on for the slightly longer answer.

Link Ethiopia sponsorship programme is in place to support children who face greater hurdles when accessing education than their peers. These barriers are often simple; not being able to afford a school uniform or the basic resources necessary to complete school work. Because of their difficult life circumstances, these children and young people may also greatly benefit from additional tuition or extra-curricular training & support – so we make this possible too.

Volunteers supporting Link Ethiopia often step into this role, and with their experience, training and insight they can offer these children that vital bit of support – support they are unlikely to have seen before. What do you think the impact of this can be?

Kalkidan Grade 7 and BarbaraKalkidan, in Grade 7, learning with Barbara, Link Ethiopia’s volunteer teacher and mentor.

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A great recent example of this is the English training sessions run in Yekatit 23 Elementary School in Ethiopia. Barbara, whose background is in education, put together and ran a tuition club for the older sponsored children at the school. Barbara focused on this area because

the end of school Grade 8 exams play a big part in determining what doors remain open for future education and life“.

Kalkidan, Betelhem and Mekdes were three students who attended those sessions. Shy at first, they nevertheless worked extremely hard and gained confidence over the duration of the lessons. The focus was on learning that was relevant to their curriculum and to succeed in their upcoming exams. One method used was phonics, to improve their English reading & writing ability. In the final session, they put this learning into practice and wrote a short letter to their sponsors, detailing and illustrating their own lives and their recent progress.

The three students really enjoyed the sessions and had the right attitude to learn a lot from them. At the end they received a well-deserved certificate to attest to their hard work and dedication. These sessions were a success and a good way to focus on the specific needs of each child. We will work with Barbara to continue the English tuition and phonics programme next school year.

Mulusew, school director presents Betelhem with her certificateBetelhem received her certificate from Link Ethiopia, Barbara and her school Teacher.

The volunteer program is a wonderful opportunity to change children live’s through education. By helping them to learn, progress and succeed, volunteers like Barbara contributed valuable time and experience to build these young people’s future. You too can take part to this adventure and make a real difference. Link Ethiopia is currently looking for volunteer teachers and librarians. And you can learn more about our work with phonics here.

The sponsorship program gives you the opportunity to donate what amounts to few pence a day to enable a child to go to school, have the books & resources needed to succeed at school.

Betelham (left) and Kalkidan

Students doing their English homework

Posted in 2015, Child sponsorship, Global Education, School links, Volunteering |

‘Beautiful by Sky Hormbrey’

Written by Laurence

The wonderful single ‘Beautiful’ is out now! The song, written and performed by Sky Hormbrey from Headington School, is raising money for their partner school in Ethiopia – Hamle 19!

The school have done amazing things over a Link relationship that has lasted many years. We really hope this amazing effort furthers the fantastic work they’re already engaged in.

You can download the song on iTunes here, and help us change lives through education: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/beautiful-single/id983283795

Posted in 2015, Classrooms and furniture, Ethiopian news, Fundraising, Global Education, Other news, Project expeditions, School links, Volunteering, Water and sanitation |

Volunteers: The tipping point

by Tefera Teklu

Tef n Hannah

with Hannah Ray, circa 2007

My favourite subject has always been English. And this was mainly because of my 5th grade teacher, Gashé (Amharic for Mr.) Tariku. He came to replace a fierce teacher, Gashé Shibabaw, who used to beat us, shout or stare at us menacingly for our inability to read. During Shibabaw’s reign of terror, some of us little brats devised a way to avoid his wrath. We persuaded our elder siblings to write the pronunciation for each English word in Amharic. But one day one of our classmates read a story very fast for a child at that grade level and Gashé Shibabaw grew suspicious. A day of reckoning finally came.

 
 

He ordered all of us to put our English exercise books on the table for scrutiny. Those of us who wrote the Amharic version of the English sounds were told to kneel and we were punished severely. Fortunately, soon after this incident, this teacher left our school for further education. Ironically, we all felt sad when he told us the news.

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Gashé Tariku was one of a rare breed of teachers in those days. He was funny, encouraging and patient. I personally made the most out of this tide of change. I gained a lot of confidence once I started to ask and answer questions or vice versa. I passed my exams with flying colours and thought I was doing well. However, because the focus was always on grammatical rules (we were encouraged to learn them by heart), I felt a bit of a let-down as soon as I joined Addis Ababa University to study English language and literature. I collided head-on with the fact that I sorely lacked in my writing and speaking skills, which seemed to be the dominant things we were forced to do. So every time I had a presentation or a written assignment to do, I felt very frustrated. Especially, my presentations were always a mess (hilarious for my classmates, torture for me).

with Matt and Chris at the Andinet

with Matt and Chris at the Andinet Hotel

Once, I memorised two pages for a presentation comparing and contrasting young versus old age. Towards the end of the first paragraph I got stuck with the phrase ‘regardless of’, which I repeated four times, the last one forcefully. When the professor told me to sit, my friends could no longer stifle their laughter. Another time, I did a term paper on Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. But on the presentation I was mute. This time I was furious with myself. I went back to my dormitory and cried my eyes out. A series of incidents like this made me worried if I could be able to compete with my classmates, most of whom were from private or missionary schools, and still graduate.

In an effort to bring myself up to speed, I joined the British Council library. One day I was coming back from the British Council library with a borrowed grammar book; old habits die hard. One of my classmates I ran into admonished me not to rely on such books to improve my English. Instead, he suggested I should keep reading abridged fictions. Duly noted!

Amidst all this, I was presented with a wonderful opportunity. I met the director of Gondarlink (now Link Ethiopia) Mr Chris Grant in Addis Ababa who introduced me to Solomon. I was amongst the first students who benefitted through the letter exchange scheme in Gondar at Fasiledes School (my friend’s name was Elliott Smith). In Addis, Solomon and I began welcoming the volunteers, originally from Dr Challoner’s Grammar School but later from schools all over England. Solomon did all the talking and I did all the listening and nodding. I wonder if I was able to understand any of the conversations.

with Chris, Sachin and Solomon

with Chris, Sachin and Solomon

Unfortunately, one of the bright stars of this programme, Solomon, was suddenly out of radar. And I found myself as the only liaison between London and Addis Ababa. So when volunteers came, I welcomed them from the Bole Airport, took them to Andinet Hotel, show them around for two or three days and then saw them off to Gondar. The challenge to communicate and understand another culture began in earnest at this point and the rest is history.

After working in Mekelle University for the last six years, I am now back to Gondar, working for Link Ethiopia. It felt like a family reunion. But I wonder where all my teachers and the volunteers are now? What do they do? What do they look like? Heaven knows! I hope you are all doing well and I want to tell you all that I am grateful.

You will always be in my memories. Cheers!

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Posted in 2015, Ethiopian news, Global Education, Other news, School links, Uncategorized, Volunteering |

Our 2013/2014 Annual Report

Written by Isabel

We have just published our Annual Report for 2013/2014 which is available to read here (link). We would like to thank you all for your support over the past year, and hope you continue on the journey with us! Below is a summary of what we have achieved with your help, and highlight of some of the work we’ve done over the past year. All of this, and more, is explored in more detail inside the report.

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Why Education?

Our work is completely focussed on changing lives through education. Whilst the impacts of schooling are experienced on an individual level, its benefits are multiplied to include families, communities and wider society. Among the benefits are an increased earning potential, a reduction in the infant mortality rate and an increase in average GDP by 0.37%.

7MajorImpacts-01_SMALL

Further than ensuring education becomes universal, we work with our link schools to provide a quality education. To ensure this, we have 5 main targets on which we focus:

• Infrastructure
• Teaching Quality
• Learning Resources
• Inclusion (of all social groups)
• Community Support

Below are some examples of the projects we have been involved in during the 2013-2014 period, each of which reflect one or more of our targets.

St. George’s School Project

‘Having worked with schools elsewhere in Ethiopia, I could see the huge contribution that St. Georges is making to improve education’
– Hannah, Teacher and LE Volunteer

Link Ethiopia supported the establishment of the St George’s School project, an initiative set up by the Northwood School Group here in the UK. St George’s, a not-for-profit non-government school, provides learning opportunities for a large intake of orphans and disadvantaged children from the local area.

One of the first classes at the new St. George’s School enjoys learning in this colourful and stimulating environment.

One of the first classes at the new St. George’s School enjoys learning in this colourful and stimulating environment.

By March 2014, the core buildings were completed and already in use. The aim is for the project to continue to expand in order to provide schooling until Grade 12. A very big thank you to Broomwood Hall and the Northwood School Group for your vision and direction so far!

Case study: Dudmegn School, Gondar

In February 2014, we installed a water station of 24 new taps at Dudmegn School. Before the installation, the school was managing with just two functional taps for a population of over 2000 students. The wider availability of water in the school has resulted in a higher attendance rate among students. We are hugely thankful for the purchases made from our Gift Ethiopia shop, shop.linkethiopia.org, and also for contributions made by the Mandala Trust, in addition to the supporters of our gift scheme.

Case study: Sincil School, Lincolnshire

At Sincil

The link between Sincil Sports College and Times Choice Academy in Bishoftu has been especially fruitful, and the partnership provided an opportunity for two students, Kyle and Ryan, to take part in the British Council funded ‘Connecting Classrooms’ exchange programme. This was a great opportunity for the boys to visit Times Choice Academy, which they really enjoyed! We are also pleased to say that Sincil were awarded funding for a second ‘Connecting Classrooms’ trip. Well done and thank you to both schools for maintaining a strong and successful partnership.

Sponsorship case study: Tejitu

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Tejitu, an 18 year old young woman from Bishoftu, has been sponsored by Link Ethiopia for approximately 5 years. Through our School Links, Volunteering and other project programmes, she has been able to gain confidence in her English language skills, engaged in global learning with students at her link school in the UK. She also helped to coordinate a ‘World Challenge’ trip at her own school, which helped her to further develop her global outlook and grow in confidence. We are extremely proud of her achievements and we look forward to seeing her fulfil her ambition of studying Biology at university.

Teaching Quality

Bishoftu1

Investing in quality teachers is central to providing a quality education. During the 2013-2014 year, we were able to train grade 1 and grade 2 teachers in the phonics method. We have observed fantastic results so far, among them a 77% increase in the number of students using the library and a 65% increase in test scores for students of the trained teachers.

You can flip through the report below (click in the middle to view fullscreen). Enjoy!

Click here to see the full report and hear about the above achievements in detail, as well as the results of our work on global awareness, learning resources, and inclusion. Once again, we want to thank our link schools for your dedication, fundraising and ideas – none of the above would be possible without your contributions. We look forward to future engagements and successes!

Posted in 2013, 2014, 2015, Child sponsorship, Classrooms and furniture, Ethiopian news, Fundraising, Gender, Global Education, Inclusive education, Libraries, books and literacy, Other news, Project expeditions, Projects, School links, Science and technology, Sports, Tours, Uncategorized, Volunteering, Water and sanitation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Do we have a Right to Education?

Written by Laurence

It might seem like a simple question with an obvious answer; yes.

But across the world it’s not necessarily that simple. Children surely have the right to education. But do adults? What kind of education are children and young people entitled to? Should we have to pay for education, and if so, does education still exist as a fundamental right? Or is it now a commodity like gold, corn, property or oil?

UNESCO - Out of school children

Following the intro animation you can explore the situation in Ethiopia by going to the right-hand bar.

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Even if we all agree that we, or at least children, have a right to education, does that mean that all children will now have that education within their grasp? Will governments and institutions rise up and sever the chains holding back girls, rural children, poor children and others? Unfortunately, when you look around the world today, even with the Right to Education enshrined under Article 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 58 million children around the world are still out of school.

The UNESCO graphic, which you can access via the image above, explores some of the reasons why children in a variety of circumstances struggle to access education:

  • Lack of access in rural areas,
  • More than half of boys aged 7-14 work,
  • Many girls work or undertake chores at home,
  • Poverty keeps three-times as many poor children out of school than their richer counterparts.

There is such a variety of challenges facing children in a country like Ethiopia that sometimes you marvel even at the luckier children who do have access to education – the boys who work part-time to help support their family; the girls who spend so much time looking after young siblings, cooking and cleaning; the children who walk miles every day just to get to school.

Link Ethiopia began with the question ‘why education?’ What is so important about education, why does it matter, and what changes does it bring to the lives of young people? Perhaps this seems like another obvious question with a clear answer. But in order for governments, institutions and people to change – to see that 58 million children out of school across the world is a disgrace – we sometimes have to bluntly show why education is so vital.

7MajorImpacts-01_SMALL The impacts of education on an individual’s – and a country’s – future can be considerable. © Link Ethiopia

The above graphic attempts to do that. Things are always more complex than graphics, charts and reports can show. And many of the benefits of education are intangible and can’t easily be mapped, recorded, or given a financial value. But here are some basic facts that highlight just how important education is – for health, wealth, happiness and much more besides. And I don’t think anyone can argue with that.

Posted in 2015, Child sponsorship, Classrooms and furniture, Fundraising, Gender, Global Education, Inclusive education, Libraries, books and literacy, Other news, Project expeditions, Projects, School links, Science and technology, Sports, Tours, Uncategorized, Volunteering, Water and sanitation |

Dunky’s Library Mission: Mike’s First Impression (Part Two)

Written by Mike

(Read Part One Here)

In the towns and cities, building a library is definitely feasible. However, Link works with schools all over the country, some that can’t even be reached without a 4×4 because they’re so rural. Getting building materials to these schools can prove too tricky, and even getting books to reach them can be difficult. I’ve witnessed that kids from the rural areas tend to struggle more with basic English, especially with reading and writing things that they might have never come across before. So what can we do to try and reach as many kids as possible, to open their minds to the wonder of fiction and creativity?

mike's pictures Dunky 1

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Well, that’s where “Dunky” comes in. This project was first put into place by the Gondar office a few years ago, and now the crew down here in Bishoftu have managed to set up their very own “donkey library.” What on this fruitful earth is a “donkey library”, I hear you splutter with joy and excitement! Well, the donkey library is a project that’s been set up to try and get books to schools in the rural areas, and to get kids reading from an early age. We’ve managed to secure a donkey, called Duncan, who will be travelling around with a trained librarian to deliver crates and paniers and boxes of books to the schools that can’t be so easily reached. This week saw “Dunky” Ferguson’s debut mission, which looks like it was fun (for the people at least). I can’t talk for Dunky, partly because I haven’t met him yet and partly because he’s not sporting the happiest of faces in these pictures. But I’m sure he’ll come to realise that what he’s doing is helping towards a great cause, and with little sacrifice comes great reward, so stick on in there donkey, my son!

Over the next year, Dunky, and possibly some new friends, will be travelling and delivering books for all ages to pupils and schools in the rural areas of the country, with the aim being to reach as many kids as possible starting with those in places such as Denkaka and Ude. By promoting reading to the children in these schools, we hope to show the benefits of reading to those who can’t quite see it yet. Who knows, maybe in a couple of years’ time they’ll be picking up a book without questioning it not just to study, but to learn from and enjoy!

I think I’ve rambled enough. But before I go, I do just want to point out that we were given some huge golden Crimbo tinsel and some hats to decorate the office with just before Christmas, by a chap working for Pelican Post. They’re a company who’s been donating books to libraries and classes here, one of which we’re teaching with at the minute. Anyway, the point is that I got all excited to show my fellow volunteer our Crimbo decorations when she got home, but I noticed that the tinsel had been pilfered. “Which one of them took that?” we pondered to ourselves cluelessly before Dawit sent me these pictures:

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mike's pictures dunky 3

mike's picture dunky 4

Classic Dunky! Neigh! Ee-aw! Whatever the sound is! Peace out!

 

 

Posted in 2014, 2015, Libraries, books and literacy, Projects, Uncategorized, Volunteering | Tagged ,

For the love of reading: Mike’s First Impressions (Part One)

Written by Mike

(Read Part Two Here)

So, they’ve asked me to write a blog. I’ve got plenty of adventures stored up on paper so maybe some sort of anthology is in order! Here are my experiences so far with Link Ethiopia, the wonderful charity with whom I’m volunteering in Bishoftu. I’ll start by telling you about the schools and libraries.

mike's pictures 2

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One reason why it’s important for kids to read is so that they can balance out the “facts” and politics they’re taught with creative thinking. In the UK, reading stories is something which happens from the minute you’re born. Yet here, that’s not really the case. Sure, a few of them know a traditional Ethiopian tale or two and a couple have read the occasional novel here and there, but when I ask what ‘what have you read?’, the majority reply with things like “textbooks”, “history” and “non-fiction.” Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the creativity?

It’s clear that these kids have got imaginations – how could they not, in a place like this? They just need to let those imaginations run free, and develop a new outlook which helps them realise that being creative and telling stories is not a waste of time. That’s what we’re working on together. During the first week of class, we spent a lesson-and-a-half creating our own characters and character backgrounds before a few of the girls asked if we could change the topic. It seems that the girls lack the drive for creativity even more so than the boys, who thankfully get stuck in with this kind of thing.

Mikes pictures

So over the last few lessons we’ve been doing something called “What’s Next?” in which I give them the introduction to a story and they’ve got to write down what happens next, with illustrations of course. A lot of the kids have been finding inspiration from their favourite television and movies from America, which definitely helps when they come to write a story. We have got some cracking stuff, although we’ve only heard from the boys so far – I’m pretty sure one group of girls has written nothing at all because they don’t see the point. They did draw a funky picture of me though, so thanks for that!

People need to read stories, especially kids, so they can learn about the world around them in a different way. “Oh, but we’ve got Geography textbooks galore!” Yeah, that’s great – we can read about how many square kilometres the rainforest takes up or the population of China – but we’re not learning about characters! About people! How do we share our life experiences and relate to others? By telling stories. Therefore, getting these kids to pick up a story and actually want to read it will be beneficial.

If you walk around a school in England, one of the most dominant places you’ll find will be the library. A room stacked wall to wall, floor to ceiling, with stories! Now, I’m not saying that libraries are always fun, because let’s face it, they’re not. While I was at school, I don’t think I ever once willingly chose a book from the library, but that’s because the ideas we are fed about libraries are so dull – too much paper, too many written words and not enough spoken. Risk opening your mouth in a library and you’ll get a disgruntled librarian telling you to be quiet! Who wants to spend their time there? No-one that I can think of. But that’s because we’re so used to hearing stories and reading books anyway, that we take the place for granted. In contrast, the kids here don’t have libraries in their schools. They don’t have anywhere to choose a fictional piece of fun and sit down with it!

Okay, well some of them do. We’re getting there. Slowly, but surely. That’s what Link have been working on with their recent Libraries & Literacy project. The project involves going round the schools, building a library if there’s not a free room, donating books, and setting up a library-level reward scheme.

For instance, I had the honour of rolling with the library crew (more exciting than it sounds) last week while they checked in on each school’s library, ticking off a check-list with points such as “working librarian at all times”, “wall displays”, “books put in some kind of order”, etc. Once a library can tick off everything on that check-list is promoted from Bronze to Silver, and then to Gold, but no Platinum, unfortunately. I wonder what a Platinum status library could look like… maybe you’d walk in and instantly absorb all the information without having to flick through anything…

So, what’s the benefit of getting libraries set up in these schools? Well, not only does it give kids a place to go and pick out a book to explore, but it’s also a place where kids can go to study and carry on learning outside of class. “Oh, great, yet more studying!” I hear you thinking. Well here’s the thing: kids in England, they don’t really want to be in school, whereas kids do. My afternoon class was originally scheduled for one hour, but the kids asked for longer so we’re now on one-and-a-half. These kids are keen to learn! What did we all get up to on the weekend? Studying. What are you going to get up to now that we’ve finished class for the day? Studying. What will you get up to when you’re home tonight? Studying. They study too much if I’m honest with you, but it’s good to see them so keen to learn new things.

mikes pictures reading

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Posted in 2014, 2015, Libraries, books and literacy, Projects, Uncategorized, Volunteering | Tagged