Aliteracy-busting plans spelt out

Victor Mecoamere

Victor Mecoamere

Tragically, a growing number of South Africans are aliterate.

Aliteracy is being able to read but rarely choosing to do so.

Also, aliteracy is a disturbing aversion to reading that seemingly begins at an early age when children get easily frustrated by an activity they cannot excel at, particularly when parents fail to lead by example.

While the government seeks to reach as many people as possible with various literacy programmes, the net is not cast wide enough.

This opens a window of opportunity for public-private, or nation-building partnerships to preach and practise the literacy gospel and culture.

Sowetan is collaborating with the City of Johannesburg Library and Information Services to host the Joburg Literary Festival, which is managed by wRite Associates. It is is part of the youth development activities of the Aggrey Klaaste Nation Building Foundation.

JoLife, as the festival is known, gives both school-going and out-of-school youths a chance to showcase their literary capabilities. This will enhance their literary knowledge to take part in writing competitions.

What stands participants in good stead is visiting their local libraries to get entry forms and to seek material from which to refer to enhance their entries.

Over the last two years, the theme for JoLife's short stories and poetry competitions were Pride in Yourself.

Pride In Yourself was inspired by the life, community development work, socio-political positions and triumphs of black consciousness icon Steve Biko.

Traditions I Hold Dear was inspired by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe's seminal work, Things Fall Apart. It also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the award-winning novel.

Things Fall Apart deals with the life of Okonkwo, a leader and local wrestling champion; the nine fictional villages of the Igbo ethnic group of Umuofia in Nigeria; his three wives and children; and the influences of British colonialism and Christian missionaries on his traditional Igbo community during an unspecified period in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.

Another aliteracy-busting partnership is the SA Literary Awards, which honour emerging and established writers. It is spearheaded by wRite Associates, Nutrend Publishers, Sowetan and the national arts and culture department.

Its patron, Arts and Culture Minister Pallo Jordan, said he believes that: "...Writing gave us the ability to record our past, transmit knowledge from one generation to another and to teach our offspring about the essential values of humankind ..."

In 2005 Professor Mazisi Kunene became the National Poet Laureate for his selflessness and dedication in championing African literature, particularly in African languages.

Keorapetse Kgositsile was Poet Laureate in 2006.

Other SA Literary Award categories include: National Poet Laureate Prize; Posthumous Literary Award; Literary Journalism Award; K Sello Duiker Memorial Literary Award; and Nadine Gordimer Short-story Award - for Writing in African Languages.

Yet another nation-building project striving to shorten aliteracy's vile influence is the Anglo American and Sowetan Young Communicators Award.