When Osborn Ng’imor ’18 was growing up in West Pokot, a region in Kenya on the border of Uganda, he said there were few books for him to read. Despite the paucity of literature around him, Ng’imor excelled at school and was accepted at Bowdoin.
Now he wants to bring books to other Kenyan students, to improve their education and boost their opportunities. This summer, he received a Thomas A. McKinley ’06 and Hannah Weil McKinley ’08 grant from Bowdoin Career Planning to build the first public library in West Pokot.
Ng’imor’s goal is to stock the shelves—which he constructed—with 800 books by the end of the summer. By mid-July, he had about 500. The library is located in a classroom in Chepareria Primary School, which Ng’imor attended. More than 850 students study at the K-8 school, he said.
Ng’imor is asking publishers to donate books, mostly in English. Although the dominant language in Kenya is Swahili, primary school students must take a national exam, in English, at the end of their school years. Their scores determine where they can attend high school.
Besides building the shelves, Ng’imor painted the library’s walls, acquired and set up lights, and hired a librarian, whom he is paying with some of his grant money. Eventually, he hopes the librarian can be paid by charging small fees for library cards. Photos of the construction process and the school have been posted to Ng’imor’s website.
Ng’imor said the library is open to anyone in the community, although he is trying to build a collection of books aimed mostly at elementary students. He is seeking “storybooks, novels, reference materials, dictionaries, and books about science, geography, math—and everything else they study,” he explained. He is collecting donations via his website, and said that Bowdoin’s IT department had donated a couple of computers, an iPad, and a camera.