Reading in Africa: Kids on Zimbabwe’s Fringe Love E-books, Too

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Big news: We’re now in Zimbabwe, too! This week we launched a new literacy program in Africa at a very special school in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. Worldreader’s Nadja Borovac and Michael Smith were there to help with the teacher and student e-reader training. Here are a few excerpts from the field and how #booksforall is fighting illiteracy together with King George VI students and school officials, the country’s Ministry of Education and other local community leaders.

King George VI School: Where Kids Overcome Challenges

We arrived yesterday and hit the ground running with our first ever Worldreader e-reader program in Zimbabwe!

We met with Inez, the director of King George VI (KG6), the sponsoring organization for this e-reader program, and Ennette, the project manager, to go through Day One’s teacher training material. Inez and Ennette gave us a tour of the school, and told us that it was a Rhodesian school built in the 1950s for elite kids, but now has been converted to the rehabilitation center and school we see today: Immensely spacious yet smartly customized for the needs of their students.

KG6 is a school, rehabilitation centre and a boarding program for students with disabilities ranging from minor social disabilities to major physical ones. The school, which runs from kindergarten to secondary/high school, is the only one in Zimbabwe for disabled children, so the kids come from all over the country. It is also the home for 120 boarding students, many who have been abandoned by their families and marginalized by society because of their disabilities.

This school is special, and we saw it from the moment we walked in. KG6 is like none other that we’ve worked with. Many of these children face the hardships and daily challenges that none of us could ever imagine, yet they face these challenges with a smile and a sense of conviction. The kids are full of joy, and they are offered a variety of classes that not only help them learn but also express their creative sides. The energy in this place is magical, yet you can feel how much hard work and care is put in by the students, teachers and staff.

King George VI students dive into reading. One student found a book about a child in a wheelchair and read it during our training session. He kept asking if he was allowed to take the e-reader home with him because he wanted to read more books!

 

The school has a 3,000-book library that has taken years to build. With the e-reader program, they now have an additional 6,500 e-books that was created within days. The secondary school students will also be using e-readers in their English classes, and the orphans will be able to use the e-readers in their dormitories after hours.

 

Children at King George VI will be able to use the e-reader in the same library where we spotted this boy was reading a book.

 

The Big Day: The Community Launch

Mike spent one of the days training KG6’s nine teachers and staff members. It was more like a lively, interactive discussion than a training session–all the teachers were hugely enthusiastic and full of great ideas of how to use the device within the library and their classrooms. Nadja also helped lead a training session, and trained two deaf students. Within an hour of training the students were teaching Nadja how to use the e-reader!

The enthusiasm spilled over to Thursday’s community launch. The event began at 10 a.m. and it buzzed with excitement and emotion. We might be repeating ourselves but this place is truly special and it showed with the amount of dignitaries and industry members attending the event. There is a sense that this literacy program will make a big dent in the fight against illiteracy here and in other parts of Africa.

 

Prior to the ceremony, our superstar class of nine lead students showed attendees their e-readers and newly acquired digital reading skills. The room was packed! Here, Auxilia, a reporter with the Chronicle, talks with form 4 students, Loveness and Precious. Loveness (with the e-reader and who is deaf) did an excellent job of demoing the device with the help of her fellow student and interpreter, Precious.

 

About 300 members people attended the event including: Zimbabwe Senator and Ministry of Education David Coltart, other national and local ministry of education dignitaries and five journalists from Zimbabwe’s major newspapers. Sen. Coltart told attendees that he admired this newly launched e-reader project, and that he views Worldreader’s work as a major leap forward for the education system in Zimbabwe and an exemplarily project of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) use in education settings.

 

Zimbabwe Senator and Ministry of Education David Coltart tells people attending the e-reader launch event that Worldreader’s work is a major leap forward for the country’s education system.


Salakuhle fellow Worldreaders (which means stay well in Ndebele). This place has touched us deep in our hearts and we can’t wait to hear about what wonders they achieve with their new digital libraries.

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BONUS: The Chronicle already wrote up a quick piece about the launch. Read it HERE.

DOUBLE BONUS: We just got an email from Inez, the director of King George VI, that warmed our hearts so much we wanted to share it with you. She says:

“I wanted to thank you so much for choosing us for this project. I know it is going to help our children so much both with their reading but also more widely with their English and their exams. The nine students who trained with Nadja can’t wait to get going and have already read two books while she was working with them. 

We are so grateful to you and so proud to be the first school to use e-readers in Zimbabwe. It’s such an amazing opportunity for our children.   

Your organization is opening up the world for so many children all over Africa.  Thank you for this far-seeing project. We are really pleased to be a part of it.”

Thank you, Inez! We’re thrilled to be working with you, too, and are looking forward to more updates!

Next week, we’ll share updated information about how you can become Worldreader Kits partner and empower students at other schools with digital books and Kindles. Or, if you can’t wait until then, visit our  “Partner With Us” page or send us an email at info@worldreader.org.