World Bank: Books Critical to Improving Education in Sub-Saharan Africa

A recent World Bank report (May 2015) emphasizes the urgent need to get textbooks into the hands of every student in sub-Saharan Africa. This report is part of a growing body of evidence reinforcing the efficiency and efficacy of putting the right books in the hands of African learners. The report states that "South African students engage with new donated learning materials No other input is likely to be more cost effective than making high-quality learning materials available to all students…" Other studies have reached similar conclusions to the 2015 World Bank report:

The World Bank undertook two other large-scale studies (1987, 2002) involving over 89 education projects across Africa. The findings confirmed the cost-effectiveness and importance of books, with the 2002 report indicating that in Africa, next to a good teacher, “a good textbook is the most effective medium of instruction.”

A Books For Africa study of the impact of books in Central Tanzania in 2007 found a significant increase in student comprehension and fluency due to donated books.

Fehrler, Michaelowa, and Weber (2007) confirmed these findings in a different study of 22 Sub-Saharan African countries. This analysis concluded that textbooks, teacher guides and wall charts were relatively low-cost inputs with relatively high returns in terms of student achievement. Michaelowa and Wechtler (2006) found that by providing one textbook to every student in a classroom, literacy scores increased by 5-20 percent. It was also found that due to the “peer effect,” providing books to the peers of Donated textbooks await shipment at the BFA Atlanta warehousestudents increased the educational skills of the students themselves, even without books.

Books For Africa is encouraged by the findings of the 2015 World Bank report.  The importance of putting high-quality books into the hands of African students has never been more pressing.  At BFA's 2013 Knowledge is Power luncheon South African Ambassador to the U.S. Ebrahim Rasool told the assembled crowd that half the world population under 18 will be in Africa by the end of the 21st century, a figure confirmed by the UNICEF Generation 2030:Africa study (2014).  In an increasingly global world, it is essential that the current generation of African children receive a world-class education, and delivering books to students is a tried and true method to move this vision towards a reality.