| December 4, 2013

The School in Kenya with 49,000 E-Books: A New Program


Two weeks ago, something pretty exciting happened in the world of education! With the Society of Jesus in Eastern Africa, Worldreader launched the largest single deployment of e-readers (EVER!) at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School in Nairobi, Kenya. The impact? Besides St. Al’s being the 27th school in Kenya to implement our e-reader program, 49,000 African and International e-books were delivered to 280 students and 20 teachers via 350 e-readers.  Worldreader has now provided over 100,000 e-books to Kenyan schools and libraries since 2011. 

Worldreader was on the ground managing the week of trainings and activities. Here’s Joan Mwachi-Amolo’s, Kenya Operations Manager and launch leader for this project, personal account of how it all went. 

The week of 11th to 15th November at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School was absolutely thrilling for me. Launching our latest e-reader project meant time spent with three of my Worldreader colleagues but also opportunities to interact with students and teachers full of eloquence, passion and drive for a better future. The week was busy with project manager, teacher and student trainings as well as preparations for the community launch attended by local government officials, Kenyan publishing partners, community members, students, parents, teachers and Kenyan journalists.

Students sharing an e-reader

At Worldreader, we use digital platforms to provide access to books so that millions can improve their lives. Rather than give a long speech during the launch event, I chose to focus on a visual representation of what we do and the limitless possibilities that digital platforms and existing mobile networks bring when it comes to providing access to books. Guests were left with images of an actual delivery of 49,000 print books vs 49,000 digital books on 350 devices. To say they were amazed would be an understatement.

St. Al’s – A Place of Dignity and Respect 

This beautiful school was founded by Father Terry Charlton as a response to the loss of hope he encountered in children living with members who have HIV/AIDS  or themselves affected by the disease. Through Father Terry and the staff at St. Al’s, the students have found hope for a better future despite their status and the difficult life conditions they face everyday. These students have been given something they had lost while fighting challenges related to poverty and HIV/AIDS – human dignity. The school was initially located in the slums of Kibera. Through Father Terry’s efforts and the Christian Life Community, fundraising was done and a new school built a little distance away, but still easily accessible for the students.

Student holding her new device

For students to be admitted, they have to have a minimum score of 300 (out of 500) on their exam for the boys, 280 for the girls. Each student is selected on a case by case basis with the committee keeping close contact with the students and guardians (if any) to understand the home dynamics. There are about 20 teachers and 280 students, 60 of whom have just completed their form 4 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams. Many if not all of these students will move onto the graduate program offered at St Al’s.

Our entire team was so impressed by the warm, friendly atmosphere at the school. Students were polite, well-spoken and confident. It was clear that St. Al’s was a safe haven for them.  Johnfisher, the Deputy Principal Academics informed us that the students prefer to be at school rather than at home. They arrive as early as 5.00am and leave as late as 10.00 pm.

One of the core values that I most admire at this school is the respect and dignity for all they promote amongst their students. This was evident throughout our week at the school. Students confidently expressed themselves and were encouraged to think beyond their reach.  When we asked the students what they would do to safeguard their new treasures, they responded happily, “take ownership of individual devices and be responsible for each library of books in their hands. ”

Music to our ears! Books for all.

The partnership with the Society of Jesus came to fruition thanks to our wonderful friends and supporters at ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. 

Students holding e-readers