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Ethiopia’s four-legged libraries go solar

21 February 2022, Impact of Our Work

The camel library initiative undergoes a digital revolution

In the Somali region of Ethiopia, Mahadiya, 14, spots something she has never seen before. She was expecting a crucial delivery of books to her remote community. What she saw was the peculiar sight of a solar powered camel.  
 
Over the last 20 years the Somali Region in Ethiopia has made significant improvements in its education system, leading to increased rates of primary school enrolments. However, the school system remains under resourced, with a severe shortage of teachers and books. The Camel Library initiative was born out of this need.
 
Save the Children and Library for All* have been helping rural Ethiopian villages access books through camels since 2010. Now, over a decade later, the four-legged libraries are getting a digital makeover. In September 2021 a pilot program was launched to revolutionise the Camel Library initiative. Instead of carrying up to 200 paper books, the camels carry a Library For All Spark Kit filled with tablet computers pre-loaded with hundreds of children’s books ready to read. The tablets are charged by the sun via specially fitted solar panels. Everything is packed together on a camel-friendly harness uniquely developed for this project – showing there is no barrier to providing a quality education for children.
 
Through the tablets from one of Library for All’s Digital Camel Libraries, Mahadiya can access countless stories, including her own, Mahadiya and the Camel.
 
“These days, I have become accustomed to reading books. For me, reading a book is the key to knowledge. I felt great joy and pride, when I was told that my and the camel library’s story was chosen to prepare a children’s book.”
 
Have a look at the incredible work of these solar powered Camel Libraries.

Turning camels into digital oases

If this pilot program proves successful, we hope to roll out more Digital Camel Libraries in the future. This will help expand the selection of learning material for over 22,000 children across 33 villages that have been receiving books from the Camel Libraries since 2010.

The goal of this initiative is not just to provide children with books, but to ensure they have access to stories in their own culture and language, reflecting their reality and promoting a love of reading.

Mahadiya

The Camel Library is made possible through the tireless work of community volunteers like Hassen. He and other volunteers bring the library to Mahadiya and other children like her across Ethiopia who have had restricted access to school and educational materials throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the past, the camel library used to come to our village once a week, but now since the Coronavirus pandemic, it has started to come every three or four days. We feel happy when the camel library comes to our village because we can get storybooks.

Mahadiya


A camel strapped with frames to hold solar panels for the Camel Library
Photo: Save the Children 

 

Mahadiya also loves the opportunity to share the gift of reading, “I have five younger sisters and a brother. I borrow storybooks from the camel library that I take home to read for myself and my brother and sisters. I find it fun reading stories to my family at home.”

My favourite book is Egal Shiidaad. I love this book because it gives advice on how to protect children from wild and domestic animals that endanger their safety. My other favourite book is Nadafeda, and I love it because it teaches about personal and environmental hygiene.

Mahadiya

Through technological innovation, we hope the distinctive sight of solar powered camels can continue to provide joy and opportunities for children like Mahadiya for years to come.
 
*Library For All is a Social Enterprise of Save the Children Australia.

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