An agreement between Rotary districts in South Africa and the Department of Basic Education has been signed to help promote reading throughout the country in the next two years.
Under the agreement, the 204 Rotary clubs in Districts 9350, 9370 and 9400 will be asked to participate in at least one literacy project at a public early childhood development centre, primary or secondary school of their choice in each of the next two years.
Minister of Basic
Education Angie Motshekga pages through one of the many thousands of books
available to schools at the Rotary
Humanitarian Distribution Centre. With her are the centre’s chair, PDG Shirley Downie,
Zone 20A Assistant Public Image Coordinator, Steve du Plessis and DG Jankees Sligcher
“We need to ensure that South Africa becomes a reading nation,” Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said at the launch of the Read-to-Lead partnership. Getting young people to read and write for school, leisure and work is critical to the development of the country’s social fabric. “It is my ardent wish to ensure that every school ‘puts a book in every child’s hands’ so that we accomplish the national goal: ‘A Reading Nation is a Leading Nation’.”
The projects may include collecting and donating books, building school libraries, donating trolley libraries or reading corners, establishing and sustaining reading clubs, supporting in-school literacy interventions, holding community readathons or “booknics”, or supporting International Literacy Day and World Book Day activities.
“Reading is the art of opening your mind and if Rotary can help people to open their minds to dream about what they can do, they will be getting on with life so much better,” said Jankees Sligcher, governor of District 9400, who attended the launch at the Rotary Humanitarian Distribution Centre in Bedfordview.
In terms of the agreement, Rotary will also donate learning and reading resources from the Humanitarian Distribution Centre and the literacy project, conducted by the Rotary Clubs of Middelburg, (D9440) and Grand Bend (D6330, Canada), to the department for distribution to public schools throughout the country.
“Working together to inspire our youth to read, Rotary and the Department of Basic Education are creating exceptional future leaders and making an even bigger difference,” said Lynette Stassen, governor of D9350.
“In keeping with Rotary’s area of focus of supporting education, we are thrilled to be involved with this programme,” said DG Wally Jacobs of D9370.
In return for Rotary’s help, the department will allow Rotary to use its logo and the Read-to-Lead logo on projects associated with the programme and will also provide a list of the public schools in need of library resources.
It will also “sensitise” its private business partners to the agreement and possibly inspire joint ventures to extend the reach of literacy initiatives. The basic education department will do the same with other provincial education departments to help clubs and districts access schools chosen to receive support.
The district governors will regularly report back to the department on the projects undertaken by the clubs in their districts. At the launch, volunteers filled 42 boxes destined for 21 schools with a selection of books from the Humanitarian Distribution Centre.
Motshekga said the four-year long Read-to Lead campaign, which began in 2015, was a national response to national, regional and international studies. The findings of these studies revealed that South African children could not read at expected levels or execute tasks demonstrating key skills associated with literacy.
“Our ultimate objective is to ensure that by 2019 all learners are able to demonstrate age appropriate levels of reading,” she said. The campaign sought to provide energy, direction and inspiration across all levels of the education system and beyond, including in homes, churches and malls. “We are encouraging schools, families and communities to make reading a regular and established part of their daily routine.” Motshekga said there were many benefits to reading as a foundational skill: Literate parents are more likely to send their children to school, literate people are better able to access continuing educational opportunities and literate societies are better geared to meet developmental agenda.
Volunteers help pack books into 42 boxes destined for 21 public schools to give them a sample of the resources available at the Rotary Humanitarian Distribution Centre in Bedfordview
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Council (Unesco) declared literacy a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development, she added. “Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and
ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy. A good quality basic education equips learners with literacy skills for life and further learning.”
Motshekga said the department was already steering the formation of reading clubs, spelling bee projects and a book flood campaign. In conjunction with its partners in business and society, it had also already provided more than 5,000 schools with library facilities, library resources, reading materials, trolley libraries and digital resources. It had also trained 200 library assistants by November 2016 and was promoting the campaign on digital platforms. “We welcome this partnership. We are assured that many learners will benefit from our collective efforts in supporting schools, as it will play a crucial role in improving learners’ reading ability,” said Rotary Humanitarian Distribution Centre chair Shirley Downie.
During her visit to the centre, Motshekga said she had not realised the kind of work Rotary was doing. “I thought it would be just a few books, only to find numerous containers of books. This is a great initiative and I will be placing an order because I have promised books to so many schools,” she told the Bedfordview and Edenvale News.