St Matthew’s Community Library in Addis Ababa serves as a quiet space for students studying for final exams and doing homework. It is located in one of the city’s poorest areas where most families cannot afford to buy text books for their children. An average of 150 students use the library every day with approximately 1,500 enrolled members.
Ethiopia is one of the world’s poorest countries with over 20 million people living below the poverty line (UNDAF 2012-2015). Education is a way out of poverty for many people but according to UNESCO, “Poverty is one of the main barriers to girls’ and women’s education.” Over 60% of adults are illiterate in Ethiopia, particularly women (UNDP 2009).
Many of the students who access the library are thankful for having access to reference books, text books and computers which their families can’t afford to buy. They are also able to use scientific calculators and technical drawing instruments.
One of the students said, “This library is like home for many students. I have been studying in this library since I was in grade 10. So far, I have got benefits from this library that I couldn’t get from any place else.”
Every weekday morning, the library also hosts a Breakfast Club where 40 children from vulnerable families are fed a cooked breakfast.