Ripple Africa built Mwaya Community Library in 2005 and since then both Adult Literacy and Children’s Corner sessions take place there. With thousands of books, this library is one of very few in Malawi.

Burton leads an adult literacy class in Malawi Africa
Adult learners at the reading shelter
Mwaya Community Library where adult literacy classes take place
Mwaya Community Library
African adult literacy teacher writes on the board in Malawi
We pay the salaries of the library team

Adult Literacy in Africa – What We Have Achieved

  • Mwaya Community Library was built in 2005.
  • The library has 4,500 books.
  • There are over 1,600 library members.
  • Many adults in the community have been helped to learn English and to read and write.
  • Students at Open School at Kapanda are being helped with their coursework through adult education classes.

How We Work

  • We pay the running costs of the library to provide the facility for the local community.
  • We support four adult education classes each week where students are taught to read and write, are encouraged to read newspapers and books and Open School students are supported with subject lessons.
  • Students are also taught to write letters and to fill in forms.
  • The library team also runs Children’s Corner on a Saturday to create the next generation of readers.

The Project’s Future

  • We will continue to support the library by funding the running costs and purchasing additional books.
  • We will continue to offer adult education and Children’s Corner to the local community.

Adult Literacy in Africa – What It Costs

By donating to this project, you will be helping us to support this important resource for the local communities. A donation of £15 ($20) runs these facilities for a day ensuring they are available to both adults and children in our community.

A reader chooses a book at a community library in Malawi
The library has over 4,500 books
The community library provides newspapers for locals to read in Malawi
Members enjoy reading the newspapers
Children love coming to Children's Corner to read books in Malawi
The next generation of readers

Further Information

Why It Is So Important

Mwaya Community Library

Ripple Africa has constructed and maintains the Mwaya Community Library – a community library which was opened in 2005 and contains a wide variety of books for adults and children which has proved to be a very popular facility. In Malawi, very few people have access to any books at all, yet the link between books and literacy is self-explanatory. In addition to the obvious educational benefits, access to books is critical to developing a greater understanding of the world.

Books provide entertainment, knowledge, reference, advice, and exposure to outside cultures, practices, and views. A library not only helps to encourage the habit of reading, but inspires a thirst for knowledge which generates understanding and openness to new ideas.

We love seeing the wonder in the faces of people when they first visit the library, and the response of young children captivated by the musical books and colourful collections of children’s fiction. However, it is seeing library members reading Shakespeare, and community members viewing picture books of what animals look like in different countries for the very first time, that really touches our hearts. The Community Library is important not only because it supports education – one of Ripple Africa’s three pillars of activity – but for the varied and complex ways it is enjoyed by so many people in the community. As most of the residents in our area live on under a $1 a day, this free resource is vital.


Adult Literacy and Children’s Corner

Ripple Africa supports adult literacy in Malawi through the running of four adult literacy classes at Mwaya Community Library. The sessions are open to those living in Mwaya, Mazembe, Katenthere and other surrounding villages. The Children’s Corner session on a Saturday is also open to children in these areas.

Ripple Africa:

  • pays the salaries of a teacher and an assistant teacher at each adult literacy class
  • pays the salary of a reading assistant for Children’s Corner
  • facilitates a weekly lesson planning session for the four
  • provides ongoing support for Mwaya Community Library including the purchase of new books.

All the students who attend the classes are members of the library and are able to borrow books to use each week to support their learning.


Illiteracy is a problem throughout Africa, and Malawi is no exception where a lack of access to quality education, high student to teacher ratios, high primary school drop-out rates, and low secondary school enrolment all contribute to generally low literacy rates which mean many people struggle with basic day to day tasks.

According to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (March 2016), 65.75% of the adult population (aged 15 years and above) in Malawi can read and write. For adult men, the literacy rate is 73% and for women it is 59%.

Literacy is generally worse amongst older adults than amongst younger people. The youth literacy rate (literacy amongst people age 15-24) in Malawi is 75%. While primary education has been free in Malawi since 1994, many adults who were school age before this period may never have attended primary school at all, and those who did attend may only have attended intermittently as and when their families could afford to pay the necessary school fees.

Literacy is critically important because being able to read and write makes a huge difference to doing many simple day to day activities. This is reflected in some of the reasons community members have given for joining the classes, including wanting:

  • to be able to read the newspaper instead of just looking at the pictures
  • to help their children with homework
  • to understand forms
  • to write letters
  • to join the library
  • to read a simple story to their children.

What We Have Achieved

  • The library holds over 4,500 books, magazines, and newspapers, which are all catalogued.
  • Students at Mwaya Primary School visit the library daily for lessons and reading activities.
  • The library is also a resource to the wider community, who can become library members for free.
  • There are currently over 1,600 library members who can choose to borrow books to read at home.
  • There is a custom-built reading room, which opened in 2009 where the Mwaya adult literacy class meets.
  • Ripple Africa pays the salary of the librarian and two library assistants, who keep it in immaculate condition.
  • To date, only one book has gone missing (and has been replaced by an overseas donor) and, unlike many libraries, the assistant has a bicycle to chase up overdue books! If any books do go missing, the borrower is responsible for paying for a replacement.
  • Adult students who were previously illiterate are now able to read and write.
  • Non English speaking members have learnt the basics of the English language.
  • Some students have been offered places at Open School at Kapanda to finish their secondary education.
  • Children that are attending Children’s Corner are really enjoying being able to access books and read.

How We Work

Ripple Africa pays the running costs of the library to provide the facility for the local community which includes the salaries of one librarian and two library assistants, together with other ancillary items such as subscriptions to the national newspapers.

Ripple Africa pays for the teachers to run the four adult literacy classes held each week and for Children’s Corner held on a Saturday.

The Project’s Future

Ripple Africa’s community library is very well stocked with books. However, it would still benefit from locally purchased books written in the languages of ChiChewa and ChiTonga. Many of the books are well used and replacement copies are regularly needed. We are also making sure that there are copies of school text books available for students to use as reference books as the schools do not have enough copies. These need to be replaced each time the school curriculum changes. The library has quickly become an important free community resource and requires continuing funding.

Ripple Africa will continue to offer Adult Literacy and Children’s Corner to the community.

This project addresses the following Sustainable Development Goals: