SFS Mobile Library: Changing Puntland, Somalia with books to promote reading skills and culture.

SFS Mobile Library: Changing Puntland, Somalia with books to promote reading skills and culture.

Books are hustle/toil to many schooling children. Students burn their books after graduation. So SFS in partnership and close collaboration with MoE, Puntland have initiated a project titled Mobile Library Services to get 16 schools children in Garowe to read for pleasure.

Mohamed Adan Hassan, SFS Education and Skills  Development Institute Director cum Mobile Library Project Coordinator shares how his organization (Somali Family Services-SFS) plans to convince the targeted schools children and larger Puntland people that reading is smart and makes one to be creative in life.

Mobile Library Services Project is “a pilot project with a big dream”. Somali Family Services (SFS) in partnership with Ministry of Education (MoE), Puntland have a big dream

SFS Education and Skills Development Institute envisions and has a dream of the day when the ordinary Puntland especially the schooling children/youth in primary and secondary schools are as excited by reading as other global youthful citizens!

when families take time every day to read together, when ordinary Puntlanders have constructive talks (Fadhi Kudirir), travelling by PL bus ( a kind of public transport-Mini-van) reading, when every handbag and briefcase has a fiction and no-fiction textbooks.

Our biggest ambition is to reach out to all schooling children both in formal and informal education and eventually also connecting the growing middle class people in Puntland and larger Somalia, and change the current situation where reading is (seen as) the preserve of a rich few or myth of Somali people as oral society.

A SFS Mobile library service is geared towards making children to read for pleasure, rather than for study.

The benefits of reading for pleasure are simply too many to ignore. It is the most important indicator of a child’s future success, according to a study carried-out by OECD. For a country like Somalia including Puntland where there is such economic disparity this is a mind-boggling conclusion-The study recommends that finding ways to engage students in reading may be one of the most effective ways to leverage social change.

Reading for pleasure nurtures critical thinking and creativity; these are just the qualities Puntland needs as federal state/country to come up with innovative solutions to our unique problems, especially if we hope to compete in the global economy.

We recognize that if you really want to change reading culture, you must start with the children. We want to create a smarter nation, a smarter regions and districts where books, ideas and knowledge are highly valued. “A reading nation is a thinking nation”.

Schooling children’s and the larger public attitude towards reading

Unfortunately, our public education system places little emphasis on reading for pleasure. Reading is seen as something you do to pass your exams. In fact, in many schools, if you are seen reading anything but a text book you are seen as wasting your time! Many people around the world have preconceived myth of Somalis being oral society who are good in telling story-tale but give little attention to reading and writing. Also Puntlanders have learned to associate books with work. In many schools, students burn their books after graduation!

SFS plans to change poor reading culture in schools

We want to excite schooling children about the power of words through the mobile library project and eventually connecting them to the main library. Unlike most organizations, we do not focus on curricular books (which, to be honest, is where he greatest financial constrains is). Instead we will procure culturally reading textbooks that are meant to be gobbled up, shared, remembered and most of all enjoyed.

But books are experiential; beautiful illustrations are just as important as the story in children’s textbooks.

The difference Mobile Library books will make in schools

SFS will print/procure the kind of books that Puntland children are dying to read. For children, story and activity books do excite them.

I remember when I was a child who grew-up in Northern Eastern-Kenya, I fall in love with reading textbooks brought to schools on weekly basis via camel—we were so excited!. I loved those books. It was a mind-shifting moment. Mobile Library Services Project is really about filling that gap and changing myth-“Somalis as being oral society who do not read and write anything”.

The idea behind initiation of the Project

Somali Family Services (SFS) is the pioneer of the first community library of its kind here in Puntland-Puntland Library and Resource Center (PLRC) and the organization to generate an interest in reading and facilitate greater access to reading books; she developed and formulated a concept note for initiation of Mobile Library project in Puntland. This project titled “Mobile Library Services” was initiated last month on September 1, 2014 by Somali Family Services in partnership with Ministry of Education (MoE), Puntland.

SFS plan and is committed to reach-out to all schools in Puntland and put a story book in every child’s hands before eventually connecting them to the main library here in Garowe although this is subject to availability of funds.

SFS will persuade people who don’t enjoy reading to actually read the books

We will engage schooling children regardless of their education status, parents occupation or tribe. We try to bring books to life; to use them as a platform to engage with ideas and contemporary culture, to make them relevant and memorable. There are different ways we do this in near future: storytelling competitions for project targeted schools, exchange programme for young readers clubs, and much more.  At the core, stories are stories, and Somali’s have a strong oral storytelling tradition, so it is about making that link with written stories as well.


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