A Warm Welcome for Used Textbooks

The teachers at Mt. Olive Academy (in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) rushed over to the box on the table to see the new (used) textbooks emerge one by one. These books had just arrived, donated from America. They oohed and aahed as they picked up each one, slowly thumbing through. Immediately they commented on the colors on the pages and the added highlights in the Teacher’s Edition. Usually they only see a photocopy of the textbooks they use to teach the students because the school receives one student textbook and one Teacher’s Edition for each subject and grade level. These books are used as Masters for copying, and kept in the school office. The teachers are allowed to refer to these Master textbooks, but they cannot take them out of the office for fear they could get misplaced. The teachers showed us a sample of one such Master textbook. It was an English phonics textbook, well worn with a tethered cover and the inside pages curling up with years of use.

In this curriculum donation box there were also some CD’s to be used as part of the science curriculum. Resources such as educational CD’s are rare for this school to have. They explained that these will be a highlight for their secondary students.

In America, the curriculum publishers must keep up with the industry standards for educational materials which are new every 5-8 years. Old textbooks become obsolete because they are targeting the old goals and benchmarks. Some school districts have storerooms full of these old texts, not knowing what to do with them. They are frequently thrown out or burned in school incinerators. There is no need for the publishers to keep printing the old versions of textbooks, so they go out of print after only a few years.

Yet these types of obsolete American textbooks are especially helpful in Africa because the local textbooks offer limited learning to the students. These American textbooks are so valuable at Mt. Olive Academy that each one is copied on a photo copy machine and bound together with tape for student use. (see photo) Copied student textbooks can last up to two years before they fall apart and must be copied again.

Students commonly do not see a real textbook, and are truly happy if they receive a copy of a textbook. It is normal for students in poor African schools to have no textbooks at all. They spend most of the day writing down the lessons and homework from the chalkboard into their exercise books (notepads). The teachers have little time to teach because the day is spent writing and copying down lessons.

This is why when we received textbooks this year from 2 different school districts in the U.S. and some library books from a thrift store, we were excited to deliver them to schools in Africa because we knew they would be warmly welcomed, and well used.

If you are interested in helping schools in Africa with either textbooks or library book needs, please Contact Us and we can tell you which types of books are needed and where to ship them in the U.S.