Save the Children brings Library to Burundian Refugee Camp in Rwanda.

Monday 1 October 2018

Jack, 9, year-old calmly sited in the new library, reading one of his books that help him improve English language skills

“I like coming to this Library with my friends every day. It has nice chairs to sit on, and tables to read books quietly. There are many books including storybooks that I love and enjoy reading. This is a nice place to be in the camp,” said Jack, 9yr, in primary three.

Jack and his friends are seated on the cemented floor covered with a floral mat: the wide walls of the room are decorated with colourful books side to side in the shelves arranged neatly, the library room on the ground floor is reserved for children. The library was constructed by Save the Children in Mahama Refugee Camp to help over 38,000 school aged children and youth refugee access different books and embrace a culture of reading. SC initiated the library project in the belief that educational activities to restore and nurture the refugees’ culture can help them to help themselves.

Training of Library volunteers

First, Save the Children first identified volunteers from the refugee population whom the trained prior to the library inauguration. The trained comprised of basics on management and application of library activities to enable them organize and lend books. The role of these volunteers are not merely to lend books, maintain and administrate the library but also to direct cultural activities such as story-telling, songs, games, dance, hand games, arts and crafts. These volunteers were trained on various story-telling techniques such as oral storytelling and reading picture books, illustrated picture cards and cloth books. Similar trainings for these volunteers will continue to brush up their skills.

The volunteers are supported with a monthly allowance as motivational incentive, but also enable them earn a living. Jean 37 years, is one of the library volunteers who received training from Save the Children.

He has been facilitating children and youth reading since 2016 when Save the Children started running a library from a makeshift room with very few books, and he had this to say: “The library is a place where you can learn from through reading.  A community without a library has no past and future. Children who often come here, are among the best performers in school. As refugees, this is something that we really appreciate. Thanks to Save the Children for building and equipping a good library for us. We will make sure we use it to the fullest.”

Philippe Adapoe, Country Director, SC-Rwanda interacting with refugee children in the Library

Addressing the refugee community, Philippe Adapoe, Country Director, SC-Rwanda said, “Save the Children believes in education and the key pillar of education is reading. Reading allows people not only to improve their literacy or numeracy, it develops their imagination and creativity, hence giving them hope.” “This Library is yours. Do not take it for granted. Children use it excel in school. Let it be the center of excellence in Rwanda and beyond,” he added.

Heather Opie, Head of Office, DFID Rwanda encouraged refugees to use the library to the maximum. “It is inspiring to hear children who have been using the library, many of them are excelling in school because of it. I invite young people and everyone to use this facility well. We have built this library for all of you to get a better space to read from and explore opportunities available,” she said

Books to find in the library

Books are provided in three languages: Kinyarwanda which is similar to Kirundi (refugees’ mother tongue), English and French, the official languages used in Rwanda and Burundi. These books will be the foundation for a lifetime of learning and reading when otherwise, only the barebones text books may be available. Over 350 people including 250 children attend the library activities on a daily basis. Since the inauguration, the turnout in the library per age group is as follow: 11354 (33%) children aged from 03-12 years, 3721 children from 13 and above, 8291 of children and youth 15-25 years –old plus 33,856 adults.

The facility has a ramp to ease the movement of children including those with disabilities to access all services provided within the building. It has a balcony with outstanding exterior view for group discussion and meetings in addition to a garden that provides conducive learning environment. It is equipped with different books, which will help children, youths and adults improve their reading and learning skills. 

Since 2015, Save the Children has been supporting out of school refugee children and youth through the Accelerated Learning Program, which enabled most of them to enroll in formal education.

Cross-section of the library’s down floor


 Written by Elysee Niyigena, Edited by Annet Birungi.