Since 1991, Somalia has been riven by internal conflict and without an effective central government. As well as huge loss of lives and homes, the conflict has also badly affected health and education provision. Books and educational resources are in extremely short supply.
We’ve been supporting libraries in Somalia for over 40 years. Today, as Somalia seeks to recover, we have a vital role to play by providing books to help people and local institutions rebuild their lives and communities.
We are proud to support the work of our partner in Somalia, Africa Educational Trust (AET). AET is dedicated to promoting and providing education for all, targeting excluded groups including those affected by conflict. We supply brand new books for the community libraries, schools, universities and other institutions AET supports.
Recently, AET opened a new library in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, a semi-autonomous region of Somalia. We were delighted to supply books to fill its shelves. We caught up with AET Executive Director Julie Polzerova to find out more about the new library.
Tell us a bit more about Somaliland and the need for the work of Book Aid International and AET there.
Somaliland had been involved in conflict for many years. Fighting between clans and between Somaliland and Ethiopia for land has led to a country where the infrastructure is fragile and underdeveloped. Since declaring independence, Somaliland has fought to establish its own government. The education system is complicated by the need for literacy in English, Somali and Arabic. Reading materials are scarce and both children and adults find it hard to source books to support wider literacy as well as text books in English.
How have BAI and AET been working together to address these issues?
AET programmes in Somalia support government and community efforts to re-establish formal education at both primary and secondary school levels. As part of this, AET has been setting up libraries in primary and secondary schools, vocational institutions, community libraries and universities across Somaliland. These institutions are vital as the country aims to rebuild. Book Aid International has been supplying brand new books to support these libraries since 2002.
We were delighted to hear of the new library AET opened in Hargeisa. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
The library building is brand new, built within the AET compound to ensure security. It is a large space which is well furnished for reading and group work and it houses a large number of books. Most of these have been supplied by Book Aid International. The books the charity has sent cover a diverse range of topics including medical and science textbooks, dictionaries and a wide range of reading books for all ages. I am pleased to say that the library is really well-used by the local community including local schools, teachers and students as well as general members of the public.
What opportunities do you hope this new library and the books it contains will bring to the people of Hargeisa?
Obtaining English reading books is next to impossible in Somalia and so improving English literacy is very difficult, but is essential for trade and employment. So to have access to brand new books in English like those supplied by Book Aid International is invaluable. Access to phonics books and early readers which the charity has sent are a great way to introduce children to English and grow their proficiency in the language. Likewise, guided readers and general fiction titles enable young people and adults to improve their literacy.
Our next step will be to install computers into the library so people can learn to search the internet for information as well as using books.
We’re delighted to hear that the new books we send are providing the people of Hargeisa with vital access to materials essential for education, trade and employment. We hope these books will help the community to make the most of their education, further their skills and develop a love of reading.