Samira Bawumia reading a book to pupils at the library
With titillating titles like “The Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born,” “Dilemma of a Ghost,” and “The Marriage of Anansewa,” our illustrious literary elders sought to exercise their creative and intellectual rights to tell the stories of Ghana to Ghanaians and the larger world, and their fabled efforts have helped many of the next generation find their voices and identities.
The millennials of today may be blissfully unaware that the late, great Efua Sutherland took her activist and bookish pursuits much further, initially discussing the setting up of an indigenous publishing house in Ghana in the 1950s with academic luminaries like Dr. Busia and Dr. J. B. Danquah. She eventually put thought into action by incorporating and establishing Afram Publication in February 1973 with the late Prof. Kwabena Nketia, another erudite virtuoso, at Dzorwulu in Accra. This is aside from her pioneering work in theatre arts at the University of Ghana.
Accra has always been a confluence for ideas and ideals, hosting important conversations and serving as fertile ground for the pollination of opinions and thought. W.E.B Du Bois lived in Accra before passing away at 95; Maya Angelou uncaged her creativity in Accra in the 1960s, becoming an administrator at the University of Ghana, a freelance writer for the Ghanaian Times, writing and broadcasting for Radio Ghana, and working and performing for Ghana’s National Theatre, among others. From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Malcolm X, various thought leaders, activists, and writers have forged new paths and sailed new worlds of ideas with Accra as a guiding lighthouse.
The decision by UNESCO to announce Accra as the World Book Capital for 2023, the 23rd city on our planet to be named so, and only the second city in Africa to receive that honour, is therefore apt, thrilling, and a tad bit challenging. UNESCO’s World Book Capital designation is a global acknowledgment of the power of books as cornerstones for more inclusive, peaceful, and sustainable societies. By winning and receiving the baton for a year, Accra and indeed all of Ghana have affirmed their “commitment to literacy, lifelong learning, respect for copyright, and freedom of expression,” values that I personally hold very dear.
Like many avid readers of my generation, I made my way through Enid Blyton’s books, Nancy Drew stories, and “The Baby-Sitters Club” series as a teenager. Mind you, I had also read many of the socially and politically charged books in the African Writers Series, and the latter is what developed in me an intrigue for the people on this continent that I call home.
Then there were Pacesetters also African but more modern and, from a teenager’s point of view, more interesting. The sparkling interest in books had grown into a conflagration by this time.
SEHP’s Work in Literacy Promotion
Having always harboured an enchantment for books and intellectual pursuits when I started the Samira Empowerment and Humanitarian Projects (SEHP) in 2017, a not-for-profit organisation working on literacy programmes and fostering the love of reading was a very natural fit. At SEHP, we believe strongly in the expression of self through writing and the positively addictive power of books. Over the years, we have run several programmes and projects on literary and educational causes that have shaped the lives of many, from urban to rural areas.
The significance of education and literacy has remained central to SEHP’s interventions. This is exhibited in our various educational projects, including the Library-In-A-Box (LIAB) project, where books and reading materials are provided to schoolchildren across the country to encourage and foster positive reading habits. At SEHP, we augment the government’s efforts at resourcing schools with books under LIAB by partnering with international and local organisations such as Book Aid and EPP to provide books in diverse categories to deprived basic schools. Since 2017, the LIAB project has donated over two hundred thousand books (200,000) to sixty-five(65) basic schools across the country. Recently, SEHP commissioned the Kanda Cluster of Schools’ Model Literacy and Learning Centre, which is fully refurbished and resourced with books and computers.
Basic Education Certificate Examination Revision Project
SEHP also has a Basic Education Certificate Examination Revision Project, which provides final-year Junior High School pupils and teachers in selected districts across the country with support and resources to improve outcomes.
In 2021, the Krachi West district in the Oti Region benefited from the project, with a positively inspiring BECE pass-rate improvement from 31% to 63% in 2022.
This project does not only provide the revision materials to students but also includes a comprehensive training workshop, where Chief Examiners are brought in to train Head teachers and Teachers on essential examination preparation and the best usage of the revision packs.
By Samira Bawumia