The Book Bus Victoria Falls Zambia
Do you remember learning to read? Do you remember working out each word? It’s an amazing feeling: being read to and then being able to read the words for yourself. The adventures you take, the power of understanding and the doors of perception that open. From Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter or Hello Magazine to Homer’s Odyssey, all that we read shapes the person we become. Knowledge and education can keep us from harm and boost our chance of a healthy future. Or as Nelson Mandela put it:
“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”
Education and learning to read is taken for granted here in the UK. In Zambia it’s estimated that 800,000 children miss out on a basic education every day. Children spend the day collecting water, tending fields or even running the family home (1 in 6 children is orphaned). The long walk to school, combined with school fees (which are mandatory for all schools) prevented children from accessing a simple, basic education. The profound enthusiasm for education, coupled with the high number of children out of school, drove Zambian communities to develop their own schools, the so called “community schools”. With scant resources and even less funding, open-air classes
were established beneath trees, or in an old container or the village hall. A fairy tale in their own right, the dark reality of this story is that:
- Teachers are paid very little – if anything at all; most have to work as volunteers
- The schools lack the most basic resources such as books, paper, pencils etc
- Many of the teachers are poorly trained (some not at all)
- School facilities are poor (sanitation, classrooms etc.)
Undaunted, communities are fighting hard to create the best schools they can with what little they have.
The Book Bus - Improving children’s lives one Book at a time
The Book Bus aims to improve literacy in Malawi by engaging with children and their teachers to promote reading in a way that is creative, safe and above all, fun. Our “Book Bus” is a rugged go anywhere mobile library stocked with storybooks and materials and manned by a volunteer crew of story tellers. The legacy of each of our school visits is a reading corner and bookshelves stocked with children’s books.
There are many reasons why we chose Zambia as the pilot location for the Book Bus programme. Initially, at least, we are dependent on donated books written in English. Zambia has a rich linguistic heritage of over 70 indigenous languages; however English is understood by a large percentage of the population. Most aged 10 or over can read and write in English. We wanted to go somewhere where there was a clear need and the potential to make a difference. Zambia is one of the world’s least developed countries. Four out of five people live on less than $1 a day – the World Bank’s definition of poverty.
According to UNAIDS/WHO estimates, Zambia ranks number seven in the international league table for HIV/AIDS:
- One in six adults lives with HIV/AIDS
- 130,000 children under 14 are infected with HIV
- Life expectancy is just 40 years. In the UK it is 78
- Zambia has a very young population - nearly half are under 14
- At least one in seven children has lost one or both parents to AIDS1
This figure will continue to rise. AIDS has had a catastrophic effect on education. In 2001 a survey2 found that one third of younger children did not attend primary school. One in eight respondents said that a child in their own family did not attend school because a parent or guardian was suffering from AIDS or had died from AIDS.
Many of the literacy programmes in Africa centre on education and self-help. Our focus will be on encouraging in young children a love and respect for books and a desire to read. The Book Bus is very much a joint British/Zambian project.
There are several Zambian nationals in our team, including our driver, liaison officer and educational coordinator. We work closely with local writers, artists and musicians and we have close links with national and regional educational bodies.
The Bus is staffed by up to 8 UK volunteers at any one time who pay to cover their subsistence costs. To keep us “mobile” and to hold costs down, volunteers camp at night under the African stars. Volunteers also help with camp chores and food preparation, which all helps to hold costs down.
So how does The Book Bus work?
The Book Bus is a specially adapted thirty year old London bus, fully equipped to serve as mobile library and classroom activity centre for community schools. It was shipped to Zambia in Winter 2008 to start its work.
How we work
The bus works in a region for between 6 and 12 weeks at a time. During this period, we work with up to five community schools. Each school has a designated “Book Bus Day”. On this day we spend the day at the school and work around class timetables to provide, resources, energy, ideas and time to listen to children read. ur visit day, is often the only day when these schools will have access to books (Often you will see shelves of a school library left bare). The Book Bus provides additional manpower to allow small group reading mentoring.
Working in small groups the volunteers will spend time with the children, encouraging them to read and develop literacy skills. Supplementary to this we encourage children to dramatise books they have read or even create a piece of art from it; the required resources are carried on the Bus. This helps increase their understanding of literature, boosts confidence and allows them to develop new skills and most of all – discover the pleasure of reading. Children are only part of our working relationship!
Working closely with the teachers we share ideas and skills to help them develop after school book clubs with the books we loan. To ensure that the service delivered is as good as it can be, The Book Bus has a committed team of Trustees in the UK as well as support from the Ministry of Education Zambia, ZOCS (Zambian Open Community Schools), The British Council and QUESTT (Quality Education through Technology).
The Book Bus
The Book Bus provides a mobile children’s library and book distribution service for communities in need in Zambia. Our aim is to share with children the pleasure and value that books can bring and to inspire them to want to read. We use art, music and play to stimulate children’s imaginations. By encouraging them to associate books with enjoyment and creativity, we hope to sow the seeds of a life-long love of reading that will benefit both the children and their communities.
About the Bus itself
The Book Bus is a Leyland Tiger, built in Britain in 1980 for use as a public service vehicle. After Tom Maschler bought the bus in 2006, we took out most of the seats and replaced them with library shelves and storage space for the books that we distribute. We also had to make the bus "Africa-proof". This involved new electrical circuits, a heavy duty pump and generator, rough terrain tyres and a tropical engine cooling system. The most spectacular part of the refit was Quentin Blake’s decoration of the bus. Quentin is one of Britain’s best-loved children’s artists and he and Tom Maschler have worked together for many years. Quentin is now a trustee of the Book Bus foundation. His eccentric illustrations are perfect for the Book Bus and are instantly recognisable. Even in the wilds of Zambia we are often approached by people who recognise his beautiful, quirky paintings of children, books and animals.
The Book Bus Team
The team travelling with the Book Bus includes the Book Bus Leader, a driver and up to eight 'crew members'. Occasionally we'll be joined by special guests, who might include local storytellers and artists, well known UK children's authors, or even a film crew! Team members sign up for anything from two weeks stay to two months. They often combine their time on the Book Bus with an African adventure holiday or a relaxing stay on the beach.
What to expect - a week in the life of the Book Bus
We spend each weekday at a different community school. Our programme of activities is led by the crew members and might include story-telling, one-to-one help with reading, music, arts and crafts, structured play, drama, puppet shows and sports. We also donate books and show the teachers how to set up and run a Reading Club. We revisit each school several times over the month to provide support and monitor their progress. The crew generally relaxes in the evenings. Sometimes we might host an open evening for the adults in the community to learn more about the Book Bus. Occasionally our hosts invite us to a local event. The weekends are your own - get away from it all, relax, or see something of Zambia’s beautiful countryside.
What makes a good crew member?
Life on the road can be challenging – heat, unpaved roads, basic accommodation and 'roughing it' are facts of everyday life, especially away from the cities. So it's essential that as a crew member, you have a reasonable level of health and fitness. Equally important will be your desire to engage with children – previous experience of working with children is welcome but not necessary. Some measure of artistic and/or musical talent (or at least a willingness to have a go!) will stand you in good stead, and if you are shy in company, be prepared to shed at least some of your inhibitions! And finally our crew members all share a positive outlook, enjoyment at being part of a team and a real desire to make a difference.
Everyone who joins us on the bus pays for their own flights and makes a donation. This covers food and board and helps with the expense of keeping the Book Bus on the road. Don’t worry if you don’t have the funds in your bank account. We’ll send you a fundraising pack and provide you with plenty of ideas on how to persuade your family and friends to sponsor your trip.
Join The Book Bus Crew
The Book Bus can't operate without a crew – it's their support that keeps the wheels turning! Wear the yellow shirt and join the Book Bus on its voyage through Zambia's towns, villages and interior. We can’t promise a life of luxury but it will be hugely rewarding, great fun and packed with wonderful experiences. If you're interested in a Book Bus adventure (and helping to raise funds), contact us now.
The Book Bus details
A shady secure campsite with showers, toilet block and pool. Livingstone is located just 5 minutes from the jaw-dropping Victoria Falls with a wide variety of adventure and onward travel options available.
The contribution is £ 749 (€ 902*) for the initial 2 weeks with a local payment of $ 350 (€ 263*).
Join for as long as you wish!
* Exchange rate Januari 15, 2013
- Arrival airport transfer
- 7 nights accommodation per week
- 3 meals a day
- An experienced leader with back-up communications
- 24 hour support
- Full pre-departure support and advice including the Book Bus Field Manual.
- International flights
- Zambia Visa $50-$80
- Return airport transfer
- Optional activities
- Vaccinations and immunisations
- Personal expenditure
Flights to Livingstone range from € 900 to € 1.100. Contact>> us for further details.
VentureCo Worldwide, in close cooperation with Mambulu!, manage the Book Bus Volunteer Crew recruitment process. They are hugely experienced in gap year travel, mounting expeditions and placing people into overseas charity projects. This is a wonderful opportunity to be part of a great adventure and to help inspire in children a love of books that will serve them and their communities well. We look forward to welcoming you on board the Book Bus. Visit VentureCo Wordlwide>>
About the Founder of the Book Bus
Tom Maschler was a publisher for over four decades. While still in his twenties he ran Jonathan Cape, where he published no fewer than thirteen Nobel Prize winners. He nurtured the careers of many of the Twentieth Century's most esteemed authors, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ian McEwan, Joseph Heller, Roald Dahl and Bruce Chatwin. He also came up with the idea for the Booker Prize, now acknowledged as the most significant fiction prize in the world.