Philanthropy gives books to Africa’s students

Lindsay Calvert

With finals week approaching, one ISU fraternity is working to give students another way to get rid of old textbooks.

Pages of Promise, a philanthropy of ACACIA fraternity, provides an alternative option for students to give their books to underfunded schools, universities and libraries in Africa to improve literacy.

Many schools in Africa have one textbook that the entire class must share. Typically, each student has two or three hours in the library each week to use the textbook.

Keegan Kautzky, ISU alumnus and ACACIA member, experienced the need for textbooks in Africa firsthand.

Kautzky lived with a family in Mali that had two students enrolled at a university. William, 18, got his hands on an old economics textbook and read it cover to cover three times in two weeks, Kautzky said.

“It was really humbling to realize that they would give anything to get an education,” Kautzky said. “Their situation is completely unfair and tragic.”

Kautzky started the Pages of Promise philanthropy in 2003 to send used textbooks to Africa for students like William. 

Approximately 80 to 90 percent of old textbooks end up sitting uselessly on shelves, packed away or thrown away, Kautzky said.

About one-third of all textbooks are new each year. The bookstore will not buy back a book once a new edition comes out.

“Donating your textbooks helps rebuild schools and universities. It really changes the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Students don’t realize the power behind a couple of pages and a book cover,” Kautzky said.

Pages of Promise partners with Books for Africa in St. Paul, Minn., to ship and distribute the books among the libraries and universities in Africa.

The philanthropy has collected more than 100,000 textbooks since it was founded in 2003. 

“Math and science books are the really valuable ones,” said Matt England, senior in aerospace engineering and president of ACACIA.

Pages of Promise does not accept American government and religion books or books older than 15 years. 

Green boxes have been placed around campus where students can drop off their used textbooks. The boxes can be found in residence halls, the Memorial Union, Greek houses and other campus buildings.

Derek Robison, sophomore in elementary education and ACACIA philanthropy chairman, said they are working to make Pages of Promise its own organization. 

“We would like to see it expand beyond Iowa State to the other schools in Iowa,” Robison said.