Henry Kim fondly recalls helping students at the OSU Presbyterian Cluster of Schools in Ghana. Through Kim’s efforts and the support of several other volunteers, OSU school students opened a new library – the first in its 60-year history.
“I can’t forget the children’s smiling faces as we brought in the books and filled the shelves,” says Kim, an Accra-based senior manager at Samsung C&T Trading and Investment Group.
Earlier this year, the company made a sizeable donation to the Thank You Small Library (TYSL) project. The project is an initiative of the United Nations-backed ST-EP (Sustainable Tourism for Eliminating Poverty) Foundation. The initiative focuses on establishing small libraries in underprivileged communities where children have limited access to reading and study facilities.
Since opening its doors in February, the lemon-colored library at the OSU school has become a learning haven for some 2,000 boys and girls between the ages 6 and 17.
It is equipped with more than 4,300 books, a computer, a printer, chairs and tables, stationary supplies, a first aid kit and an air conditioner. And at 9mx7m, the library, which is roughly the same size as a squash court, is considered a real luxury compared to the facilities at many of Ghana’s other schools.
Dinah Aryeh, Principle of the OSU Presbyterian Cluster of Schools says, “I cannot tell you how it brightens my day to see a young child with a book in his or her hands. Children at a young age do not always realize the importance of picking up a book and reading. However, the impact it can make on their lives is immense.”
According to Aryeh, some of the elementary school children’s favorite books from the library include classic English novels like The Secret Garden and King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, as well as popular Korean fairytales that have been translated into English like The Magic Gift and The Extraordinary Story of the Three-Leaf Palm.
The TYSL project was established in 2007 as part of the UNWTO ST-EP Foundation’s larger initiative to eliminate poverty through education. These goals have since been replaced by a new set of targets, with the aim of ensuring inclusive, quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030.
Over the last decade, the TYSL project has seen some 180 libraries built in 20 countries, the majority of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, including Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and South Africa. Ghana has received the highest share, with 40 libraries constructed to date.
Young Shim Dho, Chair of the UNWTO ST-EP Foundation, says that the TYSL model is based on the South Korean experience of development through education.
She says, “I was born in Korea. I saw how it transformed from a very poor country, with a GDP of US$79 per capita in 1947, to becoming member of the OECD as it is today. How did we do this? Through investing in education.”
Learning Lessons in Ghana
School participation in Ghana has increased substantially over the last decade – almost 90 percent of Ghanaian children are currently in school, compared with 64 percent in Nigeria and 72 percent in Pakistan. Despite these significant gains, around 440,000 Ghanaian primary-age children are not in school. Furthermore, education in the West African country is not a level playing field. Especially in the poorer regions of northern Ghana, schools are often inadequately equipped.
The main problem, says Shin Guk Kim, Director of Special Projects at the ST-EP Foundation, is a lack of resources – teachers, books, toilets, computers, classrooms. With financial pressures increasing and the share of funding provided by international donors shrinking each year, schools are often in a quandary. “Education is not an easy reward,” says Kim, “Learning takes time.”
For the Love of Books
Last December, Samsung C&T held its 13th annual Love, Share charity bazaar at the company’s Seoul headquarters. Employees donated over 2,400 items, including electrical and household items, as well as books and beverages, and then sold these at auction. All of the proceeds from the bazaar were donated to the TYSL project in Accra.
“Libraries can help stimulate a child’s desire to learn and dream big,” says Geum Hee Baek, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Samsung C&T. “We hope that by helping to provide an educational foundation, these children can grow up to become independent adults who are able to make a meaningful contribution to the world.”