Happy World Book Day! A note from me about the importance of books, education and not taking either for granted.

Please check out the amazing work of Book Aid International and World Book Day. 

Here are some words I stole from the website about the cause:

“Book Aid International is a fantastic charity dedicated to changing lives through books.

Every year they send half a million books to community, public, school and academic libraries in 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, to increase access to the best quality books in some of the poorest areas of the world. Over three hundred thousand of those books were destined for use by primary and secondary school aged children.

Book Aid International knows that in Africa books change lives. But, desperate book shortages throughout sub-Saharan Africa mean that in some countries, one school book can cost the equivalent of a month’s wages – putting books far out of the reach of the vast majority of people.

The number of children attending primary school is increasing in sub-Saharan Africa, but unfortunately the provision of school equipment and books in particular, is not. Books are essential for providing good quality education and ensuring that children leave school with a good level of literacy. Book Aid International are working with partners to ensure that more primary and secondary school libraries in sub-Saharan Africa have supplies of good quality books to help their pupils gain a better education for life.”

I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks travelling in Ghana during November of last year. On a whim my friend, Alex and I, decided to stop off at the Monkey Sanctuary in Tafi Atome on our way to Wli falls.

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A local friend of ours had told us how he had taken a group of tourists to the Sanctuary and they had a wonderful time, got to feed monkeys etc. I mean, who doesn’t love monkeys?? So we packed up our rucksack and hopped a tro to the East. I was kind of tired, after having become the favorite snack of half the mosquitoes in Accra, and feeling a little grumpy so I was not looking forward to the journey one bit. But when we arrived in Tafi Atome my mood was instantly lifted. The village was so bright and welcoming. The people polite and interested in us – what we were doing in Ghana, where we were from. As we walked through the village, I felt great and peaceful, no longer tired and no longer concerned about bugs (the sturdy mosquito net in the room helped quell my bug-fueled rage. Although, having said that, this was where the instigator of The Fever lived. Nasty beetle type bug!)

This is why I had come to Ghana.

I was expecting a tour of the forest, a few monkeys and a nights sleep before continuing our journey, but what we got was so much more including dinner in the village (the most amazing sauce I have EVER tried in my life) at the cook’s house.

During the evening we had the privilege – not only of watching Ghana qualify for the World Cup with the whole delighted village (I have never seen people that ecstatic about a draw before) – but also spending time talking with the wonderful young men who act as guides.

These bright, compassionate, and enthusiastic people spoke at great length about the limited educational resources in the villages, and how – after a certain age – there is very little scope to continue with studies. But they wanted to learn. One young man said he wanted to train as a lawyer so he could come back to the area and get involved in politics. Another wanted to learn more about ways to improve the Monkey Sanctuary, encourage more tourists to visit the village and stay longer and improve living standards in the village.

They possessed such a thirst for more knowledge, more education, just more, and it made me feel ashamed that I have taken my education for granted.  From the age of five until eighteen, my education has been completely free, parts of it mandatory. I didn’t leave education until I was twenty-five (almost twenty-six) years old. I have a whole room full of books (I have recently moved in with my parents who have had to build a shelving unit across an entire wall to house said books). I am incredibly incredibly lucky.

We talked at length about everything: England, Ghana, politics, education, what we did back at home, and were informed that a new community library and ICT centre had recently been built next to the village school (we’d seen the building but not actually been inside as we’d arrived later in the afternoon) and they spoke about these new facilities with such delight and pride that I couldn’t help feel a little saddened about the current situation in Britain.

We are not only talking about, but actively closing the doors of our libraries because they are never used. In Ghana, they are crying out for these centres, these shelves full of books. Its almost criminal.

Anyway, that was just a little thought.

Please support World Book Day UK. 

Please support your local library, local authors, local literary scene, local bookshop.

Read everything you can get your hands on. And then, help organisations like Book Aid International. Volunteer! Dress up! Become a mentor in schools! Do something fun!

Because in Africa, books really do save and make lives.

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