University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Activists want books for students in Africa

One good thing has come out of a failed plan to burn thousands of University of Copenhagen books: Life sciences activists have started a book donation drive and are calling for student volunteers to help students in Ethiopia

When the University Post covered the controversial decision to burn nearly 80,000 books from four department libraries, former Faculty of Life Sciences alumnus Fikadu Reta Alemayehu didn’t get angry.

Instead, he conceived a way to make the best of the situation. Thinking of his native Ethiopia, he contacted the Faculty of Humanities with the plea that they donate whatever books they could.

»It was a big topic for us students,« says Fikadu. »If they were going to burn books, why not just give them away?«

Read the original article about the book burning plan here.

Donation boxes on campus

As it happens, the book burning plan was shelved (no pun intended) after this and other media covered the issue, and the university said instead it would give the books away. After one year of waiting, Fikadu and his volunteer collaborator, Anne Sophie Vinter Hansen, also a student at the faculty, were granted about 130 books from the collection.
In addition, they got 70 books from Life Sciences students.

The books will go to benefit newly created universities in Ethiopia which, either due to lack of funding or high student enrollment, are short on the books they need. Along with the Faculty’s donation, Fikadu, Anne and his volunteers have created a book drive and are asking students to help out with the cause.

A donation box is currently stationed at the former Faculty of Life Sciences’ library, and the Faculty for Social Sciences library, where the library has committed to help the cause. The group hopes that other students will rally to help them collect 300-400 university-level books.

Hope to get sponsors

The top recipient for the books so far is Hawassa University in Awasa, Ethiopia, where Fikadu used to work, although he’s received solicitations from other universities.

»I know the book shortage problem from experience. Sending books is the best way I can help our students back home during my stay in Denmark,« says Fikadu.

Anne and Fikadu will need all the help they can get with student volunteers. After receiving the books, they’ll need to organize them and make a catalogue of their contents. Such an activity will be useful as they try to get sponsors like the Ethiopian embassies in Germany or Sweden, to help them ship the books overseas.

Saving books, helping lives

The group foresees that there will also be paperwork, customs and copyright issues which need to be resolved, but that overall the project is worth it, both for the books they’ve saved and for the people it’ll benefit.

»Knowledge is the most important gift you can give. By providing knowledge, you can assist in empowering people, giving them the possibility to create the life they most desire,« says Anne.

Stay in the know about news and events happening in Copenhagen by signing up for the University Post’s weekly newsletter here.