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Dodging coconuts and sharks on the road to learning

19 January 2022, Impact of Our Work, Voices from the Field

Digital books feed Grace’s hunger for reading

Braving sharks and crocodiles on her way to school each day is not the biggest challenge seven-year-old Grace* faces as she struggles to get a quality education.
 
To get to her school in the Solomon Islands, Grace has a half-hour walk through a coconut plantation and must pass by liquor shops where intoxicated men sometimes prey on innocent little children like her.

Grace says, “I am afraid of drunken people and falling coconuts along the road when walking to school.”

But this is only the first part of her journey. Grace’s school is located on the next island, only reachable by motorboat. With sharks and crocodiles in the water, it’s certainly not a trip for the faint-hearted.

Grace must ride a motorboat to go to school.
Photo: Patrick Fugui/Save the Children.


For this seven-year-old girl, the difficulty of going to school every day is something she must overcome to build her future.

“Despite the risks I still go to school because we do not have a school in our community, and I want to achieve my dreams.”

A perilous journey to a school with not enough books

Grace is just one of many children in the Solomon Islands who have such a hunger for learning that they make the daily trip to school regardless of the challenges. Sadly, when they finally get there, they discover there are few books and educational materials to help keep them learning.

Natasha Sokeleke, program manager of Save the Children’s Library For All in the Solomon Islands, shares the experiences of the children. “Even if they attend the classes, there's nothing to motivate them inside the classroom. There’s bare walls and not enough books. It's sad to see five to six students sharing just one reading book.”
 
She continues, “There's not enough choices of books at the school libraries that they can read during their free time.”

50 million children worldwide won’t learn to read

Research by UNESCO indicates 50 million children worldwide won’t learn to read despite attending school. A lack of access to quality reading materials is one of the key factors.

To help address this, Library For All has been working with local authors in the Solomon Islands to produce books that mirror their culture. Last year, we released 350 new children’s books, including those written in a local dialect, Arosi.

For children to see the stories written in their own mother tongue is very exciting. Most of the teaching resources we have are written in English. It's very important for them to read in their own mother tongue as well, because it helps their literacy. And starting to read in their own mother tongue is the first step, the building block, for children to actually learn.

Natasha

Families with access to an Android phone or tablet can now start reading the books by downloading the Library For All app  from the Google Play Store.

Using smart technology to get children reading

Producing culturally relevant books that are age appropriate, and making them digitally accessible through an app, is the first step to getting them into the hands of children. But in places like the Solomon Islands, not all children have access to technology, internet or even electricity.
 
With the help of our supporters, we are aiming to bring Spark, a digital classroom kit containing 20 tablet computers, to schools across the Solomon Islands. Each tablet computer in this kit is pre-loaded with the digital books and a learning application called Elevate that can help build children’s literacy and numeracy skills.
 
With Elevate, Grace can direct her own learning, and for an average of one hour a day, can learn the equivalent of one full year of school.
 
Grace reads from a Spark Kit tablet computer.
Photo: Patrick Fugui/Save the Children.
 

The Spark Kit comes in a waterproof, transportable storage case with in-built charging for devices, a server and Wi-Fi router. It was designed to be used completely offline and off-grid to be easily used by children anywhere.
 
This is good news for those who are eager to learn, like Grace, who shares, “My favourite subject is Maths and English because I love to count and read books.”
 
“I have read few books from Library For All tablet and I was glad to see there a lot of books and I wish I had a tablet at home,” she says.
 
With Spark, Grace can finally access quality books to read, and have the best chance to achieve her dream of becoming a nurse in the future.
 
Through Library For All, we aim to bring a digital library of books to 31 countries across six continents – and help many children like Grace access to the joy of reading and learning.

*Names have been changed to protect their identity.

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