In a dusty schoolroom in Kade, a small town 75 miles from Accra, the capital of Ghana, 40-odd children sit on rickety wooden benches, in front of equally rickety desks. Kade has a population of 16,500, and its main business is the local mine: a rich source of gold and diamonds. These children don’t see a lot of the mine’s produce, but in front of them , on those rickety desks, sits something unexpected and of potentially greater value in the long term: brand new e-readers.
Since 2010, Worldreader.org, a not-for-profit organisation, has been distributing e-readers to schools in Africa and Europe. The project was born out of a 2009 family holiday. Seeing a locked library building in a small town, founder David Risher realised it was cheaper and more effective to supply e-readers than paper books in the sort of quantities that are required for education. Once the gadgets have reached their destination, it costs almost nothing to keep them stocked with educational materials, and teachers consider them less distracting than laptops or tablet computers. They can also be used to display local material, including newspapers, health and voting information.
In October 2010, Worldreader delivered 550 3G and Wi-Fi Kindles to primary- and high-school children in the Kade region – one for every child in six schools. They trained the teachers to use the devices, and the teachers trained the kids. Pre-installed on the e-readers were public domain study books, as well as novels provided free by local and international publishers. And as of this summer, Worldreader has put over 662,008 ebooks into the hands of 4,300 children in sub-Saharan Africa – and research shows they now read more, and read better. As one teacher in Kade noted: “Before, it was difficult to get books. Now we will have as many as we want.”
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