Home' InDaily : July 29th 2010 Contents 6|Vol21No6July2010
Exporting knowledge to build nations in Africa
"Oh, you're the book lady from Australia!"
Development psychologist Dr Julie
Robinson was taken aback and
somewhat delighted when a complete
stranger was able to identify her at a
workshop in Africa.
For two years, she has been bundling up
near-new but superseded copies of
textbooks and sending them to universities
in various African countries with a large
population that is literate in English.
The books, covering disciplines related to
human development, such as medicine,
nursing, psychology, education and social
work, are donated by colleagues or
"From my travels and work in Africa, I
recognised a need for textbooks in many
countries where there's a lack of hard
currency," Dr Robinson said.
"If you're an African university librarian
with no hard currency, the number of
books you can have on shelves is very
limited indeed," she said.
"Many African universities have a system
whereby the only person with a book is
the lecturer. There are no assigned
readings, no library, no textbook,
and no Google search."
After posting her first few packages,
Dr Robinson's African colleagues
explained that having more copies of
fewer books was actually of greater value
than one copy of many books.
"They said, 'If you have multiple copies of
a book, please send them because, for
the first time, we'll be able to assign
readings'," she said.
In all, several hundred books have gone
to Maseno University in Kenya, the
University of Zambia, the University of
Lagos in Nigeria and the Human
Development Resource Centre
Dr Robinson is currently collecting
textbooks to aid the reconstruction of the
library at the University of Juba in
Southern Sudan, which was destroyed
during the civil war.
"These countries are all looking for nation
building stuff. They're looking to train
nurses, doctors, and engineers, people
who can do practical things."
To receive the books, the universities must
be able to satisfy a number of
"safeguards" that ensure the books get to
their desired destination.
It costs around $10 to send one book and,
so far, Dr Robinson has been chipping
into a $3000 grant from the International
Society for the Study of Behavioural
Development, drawn from profits made
at their 2006 Melbourne conference.
Anybody wishing to support
Dr Robinson's project with books or
money to meet postage costs can
contact her on 08 8201 2395 or at
Flinders undergraduate Bridget
O'Connell may share her surname with
Dublin's main street, but her visit to
Ireland next month as South Australia's
entrant in the Rose of Tralee Competition
will be her first.
Bridget, a student in science and
languages and a resident of Flinders Hall,
said her family were migrants to
Australia in the 19th century. While her
family has tended to wear their Irish
roots lightly, she has developed a strong
interest in her country of origin: she has
taken up Irish dancing and hopes her
endeavors are the start of her family and
friends becoming more involved in the
Bridget said her decision to enter the
local contest was part of her ambition
to rekindle her lost Irish heritage. She
won her place against four local
competitors, earning an all-expenses
paid trip to Tralee.
Bridget will travel to the southern Irish
town to compete against 30 other young
women of Irish background from around
the world for the title of International
Rose of Tralee.
A rose by any other name
The festival, now in its 51st year, is a
major Irish cultural event that "celebrates
modern young women in terms of their
aspirations, ambitions, intellect, social
responsibility and Irish heritage".
In Ireland she will compete against rivals
from the US, Britain, Europe and other
parts of the world. The deciding
interviews will take place on stage in
front of a crowd of 2,000, and will be
While very excited about the trip, which
includes a tour of Ireland's most famous
locations, Bridget is slightly daunted
about keeping up the competition's high
standard of dress and grooming.
"I'm used to living in jeans around
the Hall," she said.
The three-week absence means there
will be academic work to catch up, but
Bridget said the opportunity was too
good to miss.
"The Rose of Tralee is a very big thing
for the Irish community -- it will be an
Dr Julie Robinson despatching knowledge
Dr Julie Robinson despatching knowledge
Ms Bridget O'Connell
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