Book donation helps African students overcome barriers to education

  • Staff and students at Riara University receiving the books

With many academic textbooks costing $160 or more, access to educational materials can be a major barrier for students in developing countries.

UQ Business School undergraduate students partaking in the Community Engagement Program (CEP) have helped to overcome the hurdle by collecting unwanted textbooks on campus and shipping them out to a university in Africa.

The first consignment of over 7,000 textbooks has already been delivered to Kenya's Riara University, doubling the stock in their library. The books, many unused and still in their original packaging, cover the full suite of business and management topics and were presented recently to Riara University Business School Dean, Professor Abel Kinoti, by the Australian High Commissioner, John Feakes.

The textbooks donation program – known as the 39 Country Initiative – originated in Canada and was introduced to UQ Business School by Professor Peter Liesch who came across it via his international network.

"Textbooks these days sell for more than $160 although they cost very little to produce. So it's a phenomenal waste when many of these textbooks are trashed when there are parts of the world that can't afford them," says Professor Liesch.

He recruited his colleague Dr Lance Newey, who specialises in social entrepreneurship, to find a way to involve students. The project was run as part of the BEL Faculty's Community Engagement Program, which offers opportunities for students to put theory into practice and work on a cause they are passionate about.

The Business School students involved ─ Calvin Zhang, Megan Daulby, Maddi Duncan, Derrick Pereira and Declan Tiso ─ set out to find books, particularly new, unused ones that were destined for the bin and send them to a new home overseas.

Student participant, Calvin Zhang, stated that "while the project initially focused on the Business School, we realised that in order to fill a large shipping container we would need input from other schools. In the end, staff from 12 schools and institutes across UQ contributed, and over 7,000 textbooks were donated. It was a long but rewarding journey."

The project is only the second to be completed under the 39 Country Initiative, which was launched by Professor Paul Beamish from Western University's Ivey Business School in Canada. The '39 Country' refers to the poorest 39 countries in the world, 32 of which are in Africa.

With hundreds of other universities in under-privileged countries desperately in need of textbooks, Professor Liesch said that this will be a regularly occurring UQ Business School student project.

Find out how you can make an impact through our Community Engagement Program.

For further information about UQ Business School programs, please click here