10-year-old schoolgirl’s ambitious mission to buy books for libraries

Sunday October 25 2015

Dr Auma Obama and Tabitha Chelang’at address participants during the Storymoja Festival Gala at the Aboretum in Nairobi. PHOTO | JAMES EKWAM | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Dr Auma Obama and Tabitha Chelang’at address participants during the Storymoja Festival Gala at the Aboretum in Nairobi. PHOTO | JAMES EKWAM | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By MUCHEMI WACHIRA
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A 10-year-old girl is spearheading a campaign to instil a reading culture among school children.

Tabitha Chelang’at thrilled fellow pupils at Farasi Lane Primary School when she launched her drive, dubbed “Story for Chela Campaign”.

Storymoja, which is behind the initiative, plans to raise Sh30 million by December to start 100 libraries in public schools.

It was a happy homecoming for the Standard Four pupil who was selected to champion the campaign also known as “Start a Library”.

Kenyans are being asked to contribute as little as Sh10 for the project.

Dr Auma Obama, a sister to US President Barack Obama, who is the patron of Storymoja Festival, was the chief guest during the function at the school on Thursday last week.

The campaign seeks to equip public schools with books, especially story books, after recent research exposed high levels of illiteracy among school children.

According to the research, less than a third of Standard Three pupils have basic reading skills and 10 per cent of Standard Eight pupils cannot read Standard Two English or Kiswahili books.

And the reason is simple: Most children, especially in public schools, have no access to story books or other reading materials.

The research also established that only two per cent of Kenyan public schools have well equipped libraries.

“This is a crisis! We are creating a generation of children who are not literate, which will affect economic development in our country,” said Dr Obama.

Chela, as she is commonly known, has taken it upon herself to collect her own stories for more than 10 million children, who like her, do not have access to libraries.

She is appealing to every Kenyan to contribute to these collective works by writing a few words and sending them to her online.

And these works would eventually become a history book, written collectively by an entire nation.

During the occasion, Chela who has since August been undergoing training on her campaign, asked pupils from other parts of the country to heed to her noble call by writing only a few words for the collective works.

“This campaign is poised to bring a nation together in contributing both money and words to what is undoubtedly a very worthy cause,” said Muthoni Garland, who is coordinating the Storymoja initiative.

The campaign is being supported by several organisations including USAID, the Aga Khan Foundation and other partners.