Riara University staff and students receiving the textbooks.
Riara University staff and students receiving the textbooks.
21 September 2016

A university in Kenya has more than 7000 new textbooks, thanks to University of Queensland students who refused to end their community project at the planning stage.

Seven students from the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law (BEL) lead the Textbooks for Africa project in 2015 as part of the Community Engagement Program, in which students work with non-profit and community groups.

Though only a semester-long planning project, the students continued for over a year to see their plans come to fruition and truly create change.

The team created a business plan and sourced new and second-hand textbooks covering a full suite of business and management topics.

In April 2016 a container with close to one million dollars’ worth of books was shipped to Kenya’s Riara University, ultimately doubling their existing textbook library.

UQ Business School student Calvin Zhang lead the student team and said the textbooks helped students at Riara University gain a better education.

“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,” he said.

“In the end, staff from 12 schools and institutes across UQ contributed, and over 7000 textbooks were donated.

“Managing the logistics of shipping a twenty-foot container to Kenya included preparing the full set of documentation required of a typical export-import transaction, providing valuable practical international business experience.

“It was a long but rewarding journey."

BEL Community Engagement Coordinator Cass Vickers said the program usually ran for one semester, but the students were passionate about their project and willing to see it through.

“The Textbooks for Africa project is a perfect example of what students can accomplish in the Community Engagement Program,” she said.

“Our students have the opportunity to better the lives of others and give back to the local or global community while learning valuable skills.”

The Textbooks for Africa project is part of the 39 Country Initiative, a program that collects and ships business textbooks to universities in under-privileged countries desperately in need of them.

UQ Business School’s Professor Peter Liesch first introduced the initiative to UQ and said that this would become a regular student project.

"Textbooks these days sell for more than $160 even though they cost very little to produce,” he said.

"So it's a phenomenal waste when many of these textbooks are trashed while there are parts of the world that can't afford them."

Australian High Commissioner to Kenya, John Feakes, presented the books to Riara University Business School Dean, Professor Abel Kinoti, at an official handover at the Australian Embassy in Kenya in June 2016.

Find out more at https://bel.uq.edu.au/community-engagement-program

Media: Janardan Kewin, j.kewin@uq.edu.au, 07 3346 3296.