Mobile camel libraries help children in remote villages in Ethiopia to stay connected with storytelling

More than 20 camels have been deployed in the Somali region of Ethiopia to carry wooden boxes filled with storybooks to help thousands of children in remote villages to continue their education.

The mobile camel libraries have helped more than 22,000 children in 33 villages to get access to education during the coronavirus pandemic.

Launched by the charity, Save the Children, the mobile camel libraries began in 2010. It includes 21 camels, which are traditionally used by communities in the Somali region of Ethiopia to transport goods across the hot lowland areas. Camels can carry up to 200 storybooks at a time in wooden boxes strapped to their backs.

Ekin Ogutogullari, country director for Save the Children, told Thomson Reuters Foundation: “We are ensuring that children still continue to read and learn, despite the fact that they are out of school.”

COVID-19 has forced widespread school closures globally, keeping 1.6 billion students out of school, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). While online classrooms and learning platforms have helped to bridge much of this gap, in Ethiopia, however, only 15% of the population has access to the internet.

The mobile camel libraries enable children to stay connected with storytelling. Community volunteers travel around villages with the camels, carrying boxes of books and a tent to set up a temporary library that stays in each village for two and a half days before moving on.

The charity has adapted its mobile libraries to the new circumstances – before, children would gather around and read together, whereas now they take the books home and return them the following week.

Last month, Save the Children surveyed 30 Ethiopian children about their concerns over the coronavirus, finding they were worried about the economic pressure on their families and about rises in early marriage and child labour.

Ekin Ogutogullari added: “We are determined to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and ensure no child is worse off at the end of this pandemic.”

Image Credits: Save the Children

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyle including sustainable and green living. 

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