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The TAFA School Book Lending eLibrary
Saturday, 19 May 2012

bthorsness@     SEATTLE , WA   206-774-5963     VANCOUVER , BC   778-786-1690



Educating and supporting students and education in Malawi

Without the ability to study using textbooks,

the academic progress of students is greatly limited



Why an eLibrary?


  • to provide textbooks in eReaders for Secondary School students


  • the current cost of a textbook is prohibitively expensive for a student


  • it is a less expensive and an easier alternative to the photocopied textbooks now sold by the schools and book stores


  • easy, quick and inexpensive distribution of textbooks using pdf files


What is the TAFA eLibrary?

The eLibrary is a complete collection of all the textbooks used by students in Levels 1 through 4 (equivalent grades 10-12).  This would amount to 35 to 40 books.  All books would be provided in pdf format, easily read by an inexpensive eReader ($35)


The vision for theTAFA eLibrary.

To provide access for textbooks to all the currently enrolled students in the 6 secondary schools TAFA works with in the Nkhata Bay/Mzuzu/Karonga areas of northern Malawi . This would be approximately 2000 eReaders.


Where do we start?

As a pilot/test program, we provide textbooks to all the current students currently supported in school by TAFA.  This would be about 25 students.  We would also provide an eReader for selected teachers in the schools where out students are being taught.  This would be approximately another 10 eReaders.  Initially our goal is to text approximately 50 eReaders for 1 school year.


Our goal

To greatly improve the test scores of students, especially with the Government exams in Level 2 and Level 4.  Improved test scores will qualify many more students, passing their required MSCE Levels and greatly increase the number of students able to pursue post secondary education.  It will also greatly increase the overall knowledge of students graduating from school.



The process

The eLibrary is to begin in September 2012, the first term of the school year in Malawi .  Approximately 50 eReaders will be loaded with a complete library of all the textbooks used for secondary education.


The pdf files will be created with the help of students (paid and their earnings used to support them in school for the 2012-2013 term.)


This will mean TAFA must source/purchase approximately 40 books and 50 eReaders.  The books will be scanned to pdf files and loaded on the eReaders.


Expenses and Costs for this project.


50 eReaders     $2000 (plus shipping estimated $1000)

40 text books   $480

scanning           6 hrs/book $2/hr $12  total $480

administration/distribution costs $1000


total cost for the project:  $4960


Who are we?


Touch And Feel Africa

We are a group of Canadians, Americans and Malawians, all ages and from all walks of life.  Projects in Malawi are administered by “Touch And Feel Africa” – see 


The Library project - development and administration

Barry Thorsness – Touch And Feel Africa founder and business person, Vancouver/Seattle/Malawi

Chrispin Gogoda – Chairperson TAFA, owner of 2 restaurants in Mzuzu , Malawi , registrar at the Malawi Open University

Successful projects

Touch and Feel Africa is providing school funding for fees to students in the Nkhata Bay Area (see: ), computers and internet at Kunyanja Private School, (see: ) computers at the Butterfly Space Media Centre, LED/solar lights for a study room at Mkondezi School, (see: ) and supplies for various schools such as paper, pens, notebooks, paint and blackboard paint and chalk.  We are currently working on a library project to provide students textbooks for their classes. (see: )


Join us!!!

Would you like to be part of a dynamic group of people, bettering education and living standards in Africa ?


Interested in helping build a project that is sustainable, and creates ongoing and necessary educational resources for students and schools in Malawi ?


A little money goes a long, long way, the way we do it.  Malawi is one of the poorer countries of the world.  A student can go to boarding school for about $150 for a 3 month term.  A library project such as this can be launched for as little as $5000.



Example E-reader:

Slick ER-701 E-reader now Available at Sears – $50

December 2nd, 2011 by Nate Hoffelder · 39 Comments · hardware news

About 4 months back I posted the FCC paperwork for the Slick ER-701 e-reader, a new budget device that was going to be sold by Southern Telecom. I haven’t heard anything about it since then, but today my competition found the e-reader on the Sears website.

This 7″ e-reader is selling for $50, and that’s a heck of a lot less than I was expecting. It’s also less than the price in Europe , where Trekstor imported it and is selling it for 60 euros ($80). Actually, most of the difference is because Sears knocked $20 off the price.

It has a card slot and internal Flash storage, but I cannot tell from the Sears listing exactly what those are. As you might be able to tell from the screen, this e-reader was originally designed by Gajah. That means it will have a decent reading app, decent battery life, and at the current price it’s certainly worth buying. This e-reader will likely also have decent video and audio ability and the several Gajah e-readers that I have reviewed all had broad audio, video, and ebook format support.

The ER-701 also comes tied to the Kobo ebookstore. I’m not sure how that works; this device does not have Wifi so there’s no built-in ebookstore. It probably ships with the installer for the Kobo desktop app, and you can use that to download ebooks.

If you’re looking for something basic then this is a serious contender.



A response to my elibary from Frighton Kachule,
a student and director of the Media Centre at Butterfly Space.

 “IT IS COMPLICATED” (Chichewa–zovuta, Tonga- vyakusuza)

Yes at this point I agree with you that if a student does not know how to study, make notes or understands what she or he has been learnt then she or he is a victim of ignorance. This is common in many African countries like Malawi where students have no access to books or library the problem is much bigger in rural areas where no book or library is found. It happens that a student start standard One up to form four without reading any novel or any other book apart from bible or notes they get from their teachers in class. My heart pains when I think about such situations in rural areas, how ever it is very difficult for such people to get job in town after completing their education as they seem to be very primitive and an educated this comes because of lack of enough information and lack of books as additives to what they learn in class.

Not only rural students who experience such situation only but even in towns and cities students have the same problem of in-access to information and books.

This problem comes because:

Some parents can not afford to buy books for their children.

Most of secondary schools have no libraries on two or more reasons
They are too expensive to buy from bookshops
They are discouraged as students tend to steal them
They thought library is not much important than just having classes

Introduction of library play its part in trying to reduce the problem books are very important to students as they help them be able to refer what they have learnt in class. They also help them have full study at home or at any conducive place. However they are some students who learn better through reading than from noisy teaching by their teachers in class such students do not do well if they have no access to library at school or in their area.

Now for this case, as you said you would prefer to start with only TAFA supported students I may not know how many are they but any way there is this way where student will be circulating books among themselves after  particular period of may be a week or just days. This depends on class level for example form one and two students will be circulation among form two students so as form 3 and 4 students. Having a very small fee can also be good idea as it will be like a membership for them to feel abit ownership of on books as one way of avoiding vandalism.

There should be also very good registration form which shall contain all personal/borrower’s details for better follow up if any thing happens to library property. A member shall have at least two valued referees. There should also be rules about this library this will regulate borrowers/students.

Cycle Diagram

Definitely I would do so to make this library possible and secure, again I would not forget to put a reliable librarian to manage the library other wise it would be jeopardized.

Reasons made many students not to continue with education to upper classes

  1. Lack of fees is the major reasons (especially among poor families)
  2. Distance where schools are located (especially in rural areas where students have to walk very long distances to find school)
  3. Lack of knowledge that mostly comes due to person abnormality, sychologically affected by bullying and teasing by the fellow students (though now a day is not common in many schools)
  4. Lack of learning resources is also a challenge
  5. Lack of books for studies (libraries) also contributes its role
  6. Social interventions like peer pressure (where some young people cheat themselves that school is not important) and getting un expected pregnancies while on school although this mostly affects girls.
  7. Misbehavior and rudeness to guardians/ sponsors or teachers also lead some students fail to complete their education

Your information was very complicated for me to understand it, but I hope I have tried to tackle what you wanted. If still left some where then let me know.

Thank you

Frighton Kachule


Saturday, 28 April 2012

As many of you may have seen either on the Touch And Feel Africa (TAFA) website  or on the facebook page, we were able to pay the school fees for 16 secondary school students to finish their final term of the year.  7 of these students would have probably “lost” their year as they did not have funding available to return to school this week.

Life in Malawi over the last few years has continued to get much more difficult.  Prices for basics such as maize and cooking oil have had dramatic price increases.  Fuel for transport, if it is even available, has skyrocketed in price, especially when much of it has to be bought on the “black market” from people who have the ability to hoard it.

“IT IS COMPLICATED” – the three words I must master in Chichewa and Tonga for Nkhata Bay.  Please send me your translations!

MANY, OFTEN COMPLICATED STEPS - Putting a student in school is one thing, paying the fees just one more step and may be one of the easiest ones.  For a student to start at standard one and then 12 years later, complete form 4 and pass the government exams, both for Form 2 and Form 4 is monumental.  And every student in Malawi who has done this deserves much more than an admiring “pat on the back” and a “congratulations”.  They have had to overcome obstacles that we in Canada and the United States only read about, if we even do that.

BOOKS AND THE ABILITY/KNOWLEDGE OF HOW TO STUDY – I look at this as the food or nourishment of schooling and learning.  If a student does not know how to study, make notes, review and understand – they are doomed!  If they have no nourishment of knowledge in addition to the classroom, they are most likely to “starve” from lack on knowledge.

ARE YOU A TEACHER IN MALAWI – THIS IS FOR YOU!!! – you must take the time and BE RESPONSIBLE to teach your students how to study.  I admit that this is not only a problem in Malawi, but a problem here too.  When I come back to Malawi, I will ask each of you “how have you taught students to study?” and I will take time to record your answer and talk with you.

SO MANY OF THE STUDENTS I HAVE SPONSORED HAVE ASKED ME FOR BOOKS!! – and my heart goes out to each one of them.  Yes, Mr. Barry has a big heart, but truly it is useless unless I can use it to motivate myself to “fix the problem”. 

SO I AM ASKING ALL OF YOU TO HELP ME…. In Canada, in the United States, Britain, South Africa and most certainly in MALAWI. 

I am going to create some type of “lending library” for secondary students.  This library will be available first to students TAFA is sponsoring to school.  When we have the library “working well” I want to expand it to more students.

DO I HAVE A COMMITMENT FROM YOU???  Please email me directly about any financial help you can give me for this project over the next year, as you see the library coming together.

Email me your ideas and solutions of how you might see this working.  ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE OR HAVE BEEN A STUDENT OR TEACHER IN MALAWI.

TAFA’S COMMITMENT TO STUDENTS IN MALAWI – Whether you are a student, a student who is supported by TAFA or a “proud” Malawian graduate, I need to learn from you what your biggest obstacles are to completing school and obtaining the best marks possible.  School fees are only a part of my commitment, “getting a good education is most important, the mzungu learns slowly”.  I do need YOUR help.

Email me at or join the TAFA Facebook page “Barrys Touchandfeelafrica” and message me from there.

Thank you,



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