Ulwazi – meaning Knowledge in IsiXhosa – is one of the most fundamental focuses of the Unako Community Based Movement. The program’s primary objective is to improve the low level of literacy in township schools and encourage the culture of reading in our communities. This is done by establishing reading clubs and reviving libraries in schools. A functional library in a school is known to have the potential of improving the pass rate of any particular school.
In a major international study for instance, researchers concluded that all other things being equal, student performance shows an increase between 10% and 25% when a stocked, staffed and fully funded library is in operation within a school. It is of course no secret that official surveys have revealed that South Africa’s learner outcomes rank poorly on the international stage, not only compared with learners from developed countries, but even among those from less-developed parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
At the root of this problem lies the issue illiteracy which Unako believes, can be combated by ensuring that every public ordinary school has a stocked library serviced by a qualified full-time librarian. Libraries have also been found to be cost-effective method of improving learning outcomes.
THE KEY ROLE OF LIBRARIES
It is common knowledge that libraries are an integral part of the education process. As an institution of reading, libraries contribute significantly to a culture of reading with an emphasis also on writing and learning.
Although reading occurs both inside and outside of libraries, libraries play the leading role in building a nation of life-long readers. Libraries also contribute to economic development by improving productivity through a reading and functionally literate workforce.
Mr. Xolani Notshe gave a tip to the then Minister of finance Trevor Manuel saying libraries are central to community development. “Libraries will assist your successor to collect more taxes because we would be an educated and skilled nation” 2009 Budget speech, Tips for Trevor.
Beyond direct academic benefit libraries offer social advantages too. In Equal Education research, over 50% of learners identified school libraries as places where they would do homework and study for exams. However, Kwazakhele Location learners in Port Elizabeth have to walk long distances to the nearby township (New-Brighton) or (Zwide) in order to access this important facility. The Kwazakhele Library closed down in 2011 December due to vandalism. These learners have no choice but to walk this long distance as most of their schools do not have a fully functional library.
There is a high crime rate in Port Elizabeth townships, as Unako we are worried about these learners as their safety is compromised. There is a high possibility that they might get robed or raped, and girls are the most vulnerable. In communities where homes lack books and quiet spaces, school libraries offer stable environment for learning.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
As Unako we have decided to first implement this Library Revival program at Masibamabane Senior Secondary School, as the school has no fully functional library. The library in Masibambane Senior Secondary is not in an acceptable state. The ceiling is falling, there is no electricity, there are no shelves to store books safely and most of the books are outdated and not in a good condition.
One of the most important things we want to do is to secure the place by putting in Burglar gates, in order to protect it from vandalism. However, our long term goal is to revive school libraries in all the township schools in the Nelson Mandela Bay. Our short term goal is to also revive the libraries of Qaphelani High School and Loyiso Senior Secondary School within the next three years.
We believe this huge task can only be achieved through public private partnership. The community and individuals can participate in making sure learners in public schools experience the benefits of a fully functional library.
These are some of the objective of this program
- To promote reading and literacy for various schools and communities
- To promote active use of libraries
- To develop literacy, and confidence when reading
- To develop learners ability to work, read and write in a safe environment
- To influence a generation of critical and socially conscious thinkers
AWERENESS AND CAMPAIGNING
We are looking at approaching the private sector and government departments and present our vision and objectives to convince these different companies to invest by putting in place a state of the art infrastructure and resources.
Independent individuals can volunteer their services by giving their time into a library by assisting learners on how to access certain books. On the other hand they can donate books and contribute anything that is beneficial in a library.
Furthermore, we wish to partner up with radio stations like Kingfisher, Umhlobo Wenene, Algoa FM, to promote this program. We believe they can assist us in giving this program widespread publicity. The Herald is a viable media that we want to partner with as they have a massive circulation in the Eastern Cape, particular in the Nelson Mandela Bay.
On the other hand we would search for prominent individuals in the Nelson Mandela Bay to become ambassadors of this initiative. People who will become ambassadors should have good moral values and passionate about the development of an African child.
The revival of libraries in schools would assist immensely in sustaining the book club initiative that is in progress. Learners would be motivated in many ways when they can access books of their choice and do research through the internet in their school library.
PROGRAMMES AND ACTIVITIES
Duties, programmes and activities will be running continuously upon the launch of the Masibambane library. These programmes are geared towards, not only assisting the students who will participate in them but also to uplift and enrich the community surrounding Masibambane.
Firstly, the existing Reading Space programme currently operating at both Masibambane and Qaphelani will finally have access to academic resources that it previously had to source from NMMU facilities or through sponsorship. This includes materials like reading books, printers, stationery, and storage space.
Secondly, there will be a Homework Club which will be an extension of the Reading Space assisting those in grades 8 and 9 with their homework during the week. We want this library to be a space where learners are able to do their homework in a peaceful and helpful environment, where learning and productivity are encouraged. Focus on particular subjects will be subject to request, but it will be a space where we encourage learners to engage with any of their learning and form administered study groups.
We also hope this will be an environment where learners are able to study for tests without distractions or interruptions.
The Homework Club programme will run for two hours each day, from Monday-Thursday, between 2-4pm.
Thirdly, library monitors and leaders will obviously be needed to work according to shifts and attend to administrative and assistant duties at the library. Although facilitators from the Unako Reading Space will be volunteering as administrators and managing assistants, we are thinking of opening up the monitoring roles to interested senior learners of Masibambane, mainly grade 10s and 11s.
The group of interested learners would go through a full day Library Monitoring and Assistance workshop, with the help of NMMU’s employed library assistants where they are taught all the different facets and duties that will require undertaking during their working hours. Since the library will run weekly after school hours, preferably from 2pm-5pm, the senior students will be available for monitoring and assisting duties, whilst also getting the opportunity to complete their own school work in a favourable work environment. Judging by how successful these programmes are, other grades will be encouraged, through training and a buddy system, to also assist with some of the library duties.
The point of this is to allow for a leadership platform for the learners where they can learn valuable skills, such as:
Language skills – Written, spoken, interpreted & analytical
Research skills – Dewey Library system, Internet web searches for school assignments
Interpersonal skills – Interactive participation with visiting learners requiring help
Computer skills – MS Word and tactical comfortability with tech gadgets
Organisation skills – Time management, filing books and formatting documents
Supervisory skills – Monitoring and invigilation
Leadership skills – Student assistance
With all that said, on the material level we realise that a lot needs to be done; installing a new ceiling and fixing the roof; painting the walls; installing in-built shelves, tables, chairs; stocking up on books from donations, getting access to electrical power, securing the place with Trellidor and so on.
As stated previously, in order to raise awareness for this new and essential project, we’ve devised an online social media campaign that we will start running in the beginning of July consisting of;
- promotional videos of the project involving interviews with the Reading Space learners from the two schools,
- a blog website detailing the goals of the Revive A Library project,
- trending hashtags,
- literacy and library statistics.
Hopefully we’ll attract help, donations and sponsorships from interested parties.
One of our fundamental objectives is to also have a Media Centre, where these students can access the internet and receive computer training. The Media centre is very important to this initiative as most learners go to university without having a clue on how to use a computer. As the organization we are looking at changing the status quo and contribute in decreasing the digital -divide.
The importance of a fully functional library cannot be over emphasized, the library is important in building and sustaining the culture of reading. If every school had a fully functional library, we believe most schools could produce great results all around, especially in matric.
Yes we recognize that the non-existence of libraries in township schools is a legacy of apartheid, but after 21 years this government has not done enough to address this issue. We are concerned that South Africa’s youth may not reach their potential unless they become well-equipped and capable readers within their first few years of school.
This basic requirement necessitates the access to good quality and well-looked after books. Particularly in their later school years, learners need access to written resources for project work and for developing the skills of information literacy that are crucial to any young person who hopes to become globally competitive or successful at university. We believe with the participation of private sector, public sector, small business, and volunteers we can make an enormous difference if we can work together and say one school, one library, and one community.