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School children, teachers, libraries and rural communities in five African countries are to benefit from the second wave of grants from the African Publishing Innovation Fund (APIF), the grant programme led by the UAE-based global philanthropic organization Dubai Cares and implemented by the International Publishers Association (IPA).

In Ghana the Learners Girls Foundation will support 400 at-risk Ghanaian girls in Paga, a rural community of 100,000, to continue their education and access educational resources despite technology and internet connectivity challenges.

In Kenya, Nairobi’s eKitabu will work with publishers to enrich the remote learning of more than nine million students and teachers with accessible digital learning materials.

The closure of schools in Rwanda due to the pandemic means that community libraries have taken on an even more important role in building critical literacy skills and fostering a reading culture.  Save the Children Rwanda will train 270 librarians in eight community libraries on the use of technology to strengthen a culture of reading in remote and rural communities while providing digitally accessible reading materials in Kinyarwanda that will keep 1.6 million children reading while unable to attend school.

In Tanzania competing government budget demands have led to a significant shortage of community and school libraries in the Zanzibar region of Tanzania. Book Aid International will transform three shipping containers into fully-equipped libraries in Dunga, a rural community of 76,000, where children can enjoy reading, young learners can study for exams, and adults can read and learn new skills.

 Finally, Zimbabwe will see the fund used to build a modern community library in Nemashakwe area, Gutu district, that will provide 800 students and youth access to books, a place to study, and programs to attain livelihood skills.  Schools and rural areas are poorly resourced in the region and this initiative – led by country’s most famous poet, Chirikure Chirikure no less – aims to fill the gap.

The five projects chosen will each receive $170,000 in funding in 2021.  Commenting on the APIF grant recipients, IPA President Bodour Al Qasimi said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has set back the education of millions of learners around the world, but its effects are acutest where the infrastructure cannot support the connectivity required for distance learning. Having received far more applications than we could have imagined, we are all very excited to have found five projects that we believe will deliver significant benefits for a great number of children and young people.”

Due to the pandemic, it is estimated that 250m children are out of school in Africa. In rural communities, lack of internet connectivity, library facilities, and significant urban-rural digital divides have also left students unable to attend remote learning. Girls, in particular, have been affected more by closures since they are often expected to take on childcare responsibilities and household chores. The IPA says: “In addressing these challenges through publishing innovation, the African Publishing Innovation Fund is contributing to avoiding a lost generation of youth which lacks critical literacy, livelihood, and life skills.”