Children in the Somali region, Ethiopia, are beginning to benefit from the expansion of education reports Save the Children. However only 51% of children in Somali region enrol in school compared to the national average of 82%. The school system remains under resourced, and there is a desperate need to provide more books and reading materials if children are to become readers and writers. Given the challenging environment, the huge distances between communities, an innovative approach is needed to ensure children have access to books.
Save the Children are working with their local partner Aged and Children Pastoralist Association (APCA) to set up and run a mobile camel library service to deliver books and reading materials to communities in Somali region. The camel is integral to life in Somali region, and is a natural way to deliver services as the library itself reflects the nomadic way of life of the region.
Finding good quality reading materials for the libraries remains a challenge. Save the Children UK is working to identify Somali books from around the world to purchase for the libraries. In addition, we have commissioned and published a number of stories to place in the libraries. These have the advantage of closely reflecting the children’s way of life, and helping children to work through the challenges they face.
Currently the camel library service serves 10 communities in Somali region. Each community is visited once a month and so far a total of 3,214 children of school age have benefited from the service.
The camel library consists of two camels each equipped with two full boxes full of books, mats and a tent structure. These are accompanied by a librarian and a camel herder. As the library service arrives in a community, the books and other items are unloaded and displayed on the mat. Children arrive with the book that they borrowed on their last visit, and their library registration card, they then choose a new book to borrow and read.