Writings of the general word's body

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Okediran @ BAI

It’s ANA’s Conference season (the 26th annual convention is on in Owerri, Nigeria, this weekend) presided over by the ANA President Wale Okediran. What better time to recall some of the ways in which Okediran represents the Nigerian writers’ body on trips to Britain? And so to something that ought to have been blogged long ago (the words ‘good intentions’ and ‘pot’ come to mind). I tagged along when on 21st June Okediran paid a visit to the offices of Book Aid International (BAI) on London’s Coldharbour Lane. There he was met by Karen Edwards (Programme Manager for West Africa, the Horn of Africa & Sri Lanka) and 3 other members of BAI staff, including Nelly Temu Williams.

Book Aid International works to promote literacy by creating reading and learning opportunities for disadvantaged people with limited access to books and library facilities. The organisation works in partnership with groups in 18 countries, 16 of which are African nations.

As Karen Edwards informed during the visit, BAI’s Nigeria programme is its largest, with 52 requests for books from different organisations in the country between January to June alone. BAI has been working in Nigeria since 1964; the most populous African nation gets over 75,000 books a year – half a million in the last 6 years.

Unsurprisingly, for anyone who knows anything about Nigerian Ports, clearing the books on the Nigerian end can be a challenge. These were some of the issues on which BAI was looking to work more closely with bodies like ANA (Association of Nigerian Authors) in order to smooth the process. Okediran discussed these challenges with the team and also shared information about initiatives back home including the Nigeria Reads Project.

Nelly Temu Williams of the BAI Policy & Advocacy Team took Okediran on a tour of the Book Aid International’s warehouse. The organisation does not receive government funding and depends on private donations. Volunteers help vet the books received, and publishers who donate are asked to send high quality books covering many topic, so that the warehouse has sections for textbooks on many subjects as well as fiction. All are high quality, contrary to the popular view that initiatives like BAI are just a way to dump poor quality books on Third World Countries. At BAI, books that don’t meet the required standard are sent to the recycle bin. The tour ended with a viewing of crates reading for shipping to many counties, including Nigeria.

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