Phumla Khumalo brightens kids' future

Entrepreneur and author Phumla Khumalo established an academy to excite young minds about books and nurture a reading culture in her community.

The owner of Phumla Khumalo Academy, from Mohlakeng on the West Rand, re-branded her aftercare centre to an academy late last year to improve literacy levels in the small township.

She says this was after she realised that learners were struggling with reading and writing, not only in English but also in their home languages.

Her aftercare centre was established in September 2015, a year after she quit her dental assistant job to pursue her dream.

"I've always wanted to work with children, it has always been my passion, but I also knew that I should do it in a way that will reduce unemployment in the community.

"I only started with two children but (I was) never de-motivated, because I knew it would get better with time," she said.

A year later, she went to study educare didactics at Westcol College, a vocational and training institute. The course qualified her to be a daycare practitioner, she says.

Today she takes care of 32 kids who pay R360 per month for the aftercare and literacy lessons.

To promote better reading and writing skills, Khumalo realised that she had to write children's books to become a good example to her young learners.

She worked with her husband Thapelo to publish her first 12-paged book The Sun, which has been translated into four South African languages including Tswana, Xhosa and Zulu, to teach children to read and write their own languages.

"We work with children on a daily basis and our biggest challenge is children who cannot read and those who can read, do not read to understand. The other challenge we had was lack of reading books, especially books for African languages," she said.

After she wrote the simple and colourful 12 page book, her graphic designer husband worked on the illustrations.

"When she told me that she wanted to write a book I (saw) it as an opportunity to show my support, so I did the graphics for her books," added Thapelo.

"I knew this was what she wanted, and when she started going to the farms to (offer to) transport kids to her academy, I knew she was not planning to go back (to a corporate job) and she had found her happiness."

Khumalo explained that according to the parents and guardians of her learners, the children cannot attend school because they could not afford transport, whereas others don't have birth certificates.

Phumla Khumalo Academy operates from 1.30pm to 6.30pm on weekdays and 9am to 12pm on Saturdays.

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