Reading has always been associated with fulfilling a reader’s mind with comfort and desires. For the rich or fortunate families, reading enhances comfort, pleasure, and satisfaction while for the less fortunate in society, it takes them to the elusive world of fantasy and hope.
When children are denied adequate books and reading materials, they are likely to feel the loss of love. As a child grows, they are always eager to learn, a child learns quickly using five senses. Touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste. Failure to get proper exposure during the tender age is just like denying the child the true love that they deserve.
With the novel Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) which was declared a pandemic by World Health Organization (WHO) it brought negative economic impact in many countries across the world. The inevitable measures that were placed to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus and the looming uncertainty about the disease had knock-on effects on businesses and workers’ incomes. Schools and public institutions were not spared either, currently, students and pupils are at home and very little is taking place to enhance continuous education especially for the less fortunate families. Libraries are closed, public social services are closed, primary school teachers are at home and more importantly pupils cannot be able to access books or libraries which have always been their source of vital information.
To bridge the gap, the Kenyan government proposed the implementation of online teaching which seemed to be unrealistic within the less fortunate families who are either in slums or rooted in the villages busy grappling with poverty with lack of proper infrastructure. While all this is happening, the children from well off families who go to high-end academy schools and international schools are busy engaged with online classes and provided with digital books and other information resources.
It is therefore inevitable that if the pandemic is going to last longer, the Kenyan social gap is going to widen. Just imagine, barely four months of the Covid-19 pandemic and there seems to have been an alarming upsurge in the number of teenage pregnancy cases being reported both to the local authorities and to the health facilities offering maternity and other reproductive health services.
Informal settlement in Nairobi
However, all is not lost if the national government, local government, and NGOs can team-up, partner and come up with a lasting solution that can bridge this gap now and in the near future. It is quite noticeable that there are some organizations during this pandemic which have never closed their doors and are still assisting young children to have access to books and reading materials though with some challenges. A case in point is an NGO called INSPIRE in Nyeri County-Kenya founded and managed by a young lady Ms. Emily Miller whom I worked with and mentored at Dedan Kimathi University Library before she left and established the Community library to serve the less fortunate kids.
It is therefore, our hope that with the current project DRIVE (Digital Reading for Inclusivity, Versatility, and Engagement) which is timely and appropriate to our current changing needs and new norm, we will be able to come up with achievable, measurable goals, and objectives to enhance and bridge the social divide gap that is expanding in Kenya as a result COVID-19 pandemic.