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British children donate 330,000 textbooks to pupils in Tanzania and Uganda

With the help of students from across the UK, the award winning recycling charity, READ International, have this summer sent their largest shipment of reference and textbooks – a staggering 330,000 – to schools in Tanzania and Uganda. Since 2006, the charity organisation has been improving access to education across the region through the donation of over 1.3 million books.

“Both countries follow a secondary school syllabus almost identical to the UK and all classes are taught in English, so these books are perfectly suited,” says Robert Wilson, the founding director of READ International and recent winner of an Enterprising Young Brit Award. “We work closely with the Ministry of Education in both countries to ensure that our books go to where they are most needed.” So far, over 250,000 pupils in East Africa have benefited and 500 tonnes of waste has been saved from UK landfill sites.

The strength of READ is secured by the involvement of a network of volunteer-led projects based at 45 UK universities. Key Stage 3 and GCSE textbooks are gathered from nearby secondary schools and sorted to ensure only the most relevant and appropriate are sent. Any book deemed unsuitable is sold online to generate funds to cover the costs of dispatching the books abroad. It is this simple low-cost model that has made READ so successful.

The whole process and sheer volume of books could, of course, be a logistical nightmare. However, through a number of key partnerships with the likes of Big Yellow Self-Storage, DHL, Waterstones, Staples and the British Library, they are keeping costs low and efficiency high. In fact, it never costs READ more than 50 pence to send a book from the UK to Tanzania; far less than it would cost to reprint a new copy.

As well as providing the literature, the charity is involved in the renovation of dozens of school libraries so that access to the books is improved. “The vision is to keep our collection model growing to other parts of the world, as well as our delivery model,” says Robert. “So if you have any unwanted books, please do get in touch with us.”

Contact: READ International,
Vintage House, 37 Albert Embankment, Vauxhall, London, SE1 7TL
Telephone: +44 (0)20 3031 9116

Image: Robert Wilson with pupils who received the first shipment of books in Singida, Tanzania. Photo: copyright READ International

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