Growing bookworms in rural areas

Ntokozo Ndlovu started Siyafunda (We are learning), a donate a book fund, which has since distributed 21450 books to 37 rural schools and three rural school community libraries.
Ntokozo Ndlovu started Siyafunda (We are learning), a donate a book fund, which has since distributed 21450 books to 37 rural schools and three rural school community libraries.
Image: Alaister Russell

When a Pretoria-based soldier made a social media appeal for books for his nephews three years ago, he opened a chapter in his life that would see him deliver more than 21000 books all over the country.

Ntokozo Ndlovu, a human resources clerk at the South African Army College, was surprised to collect more than 4000 books from a single post on social media in 2015 after he found that the library in Inzinga, in KwaZulu-Natal's midlands, did not have Zulu books for his nephews, aged six and eight.

"I donated 3500 books to the Inzinga library and I gave some other books to the boys," he said.

The story of the Siyafunda "We are learning" Donate a Book programme began when Ndlovu started getting requests for books from rural schools in KwaZulu-Natal. He enlisted friends Thembelani Ndlela and Njabulo Shange to help start the programme.

They visited rural schools to determine if there was a need for libraries and infrastructure, if children were reading and if teachers were promoting the culture of reading.

Only 21% of state schools have libraries, and only 7% have books in those libraries.

Ndlovu has distributed 21450 books to 37 rural schools and three rural school community libraries - which are open to the public - reaching more than 11000 children.

Two weeks ago, Ndlovu travelled from Pretoria to Umlazi township in Durban when 20 pallets of 552 boxes of books arrived from the US for his programme.

Ndlovu and his team will be drafting a plan of action on how to distribute the books and establish libraries in rural areas across the country.

"My mother was a Zulu literature teacher in her day," he said.

"She used to read folk tales and sometimes make us read aloud, practise spelling, and it was fascinating."

His mother, Ngethembi Ndlovu, is one of the 12 avid book lovers who make up the Siyafunda team.

Ndlovu uses the hashtag #NoRuralChildLeftBehind18.

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