See What This Peace Corps Volunteer Did for Literacy in Tanzania
September 18, 2015 By Selena Garrahan
Ryan Shortal served as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years, starting in July 2013. He taught biology at the Kwakoko Secondary School, in northern Tanzania. In June 2014 Ryan contacted Worldreader. The school where he was teaching was in dire need of books. Prior to contacting us, Form 4 English teacher, Elizabeth Msaku, and Ryan had worked together to open a library for the students in the hopes of encouraging a reading culture. But with very few books, the library shelves remained despairingly bare.
As a Peace Corps volunteer, Ryan’s work with students allowed him to understand the value that education represents in the lives of children and their communities. Perhaps more importantly, he recognized the consequences they face when they go without access to essential learning materials.
‘‘One of the biggest challenges we face here is a severe lack of resources for our students. The vast majority of them are not able to afford textbooks or books of any kind. As a result, our students are not able to perform well in school and most fail to pass their national exams which means that they are unable to continue their education and have very few options for their future.’’
Determined to improve the lives of some 400 students, Ryan and Elizabeth found a way to bring a bigger library with thousands of books to the Kwakoko Secondary School: ‘‘We decided to do something about it and we contacted Worldreader.’’
In just under three months, Ryan was able to raise enough money needed for the e-reading program: ‘‘I decided to reach out to my networks, friends, and family who knew how dear this project was to me and set up an online fundraising campaign. I didn’t expect it to set off as it did, but after several weeks I was able to raise enough funds for 35 e-readers.’’ That’s the equivalent of 7,000 e-books!
An integral part of the Peace Corps’ mission is to create sustainable change that lives on long after volunteers have donated their time and work. Elizabeth, now the school’s Worldreader Project Manager, and Ryan understood the importance of a self-sustainable program for the students. Through training and an integrative community launch, the community made a long-term commitment to support the e-reading program.
Every stakeholder plays an indispensable role in an e-reading program. From the mother who encourages her children to read on their e-readers to the teacher who integrates the reading material into her classes to the government official who understands the value in promoting literacy and facilitates the uptake of such projects. These efforts are the cornerstone for the success of any e-reading project.
The launch took place on the 18th of February. Over 500 people attended the event including students, parents, teachers and high ranking local government officials.
Ryan recently wrote to us to share an update since the launch of the program. He said: ‘‘I’m in the school library. It is completely full and every e-reader is being read by a student. I really couldn’t be any happier at this moment!’’
Interested in bringing digital reading to your community? Find out more about Worldreader’s Blue Box program.