Reading books not only helps one succeed in life, but also helps one become a better human being; this was the message received at the launch of the Gauteng Department of Education’s book donation drive at the Nelson Mandela Foundation on 11 July.
The drive will form part of the department’s International Mandela Day campaign. Pupils from Rodean and Saheti primary schools kick-started the campaign by handing over books to the department.
According to Panyaza Lesufi, MEC for Education in Gauteng, the books will be donated, province-wide, to schools that have functional libraries. Lesufi said a functional library is a resource centre, which has a librarian, books and other information resources for pupils. Out of some 2 300 privileged and impoverished schools in the province, 840 have been chosen as recipients.
Lesufi said that far too many schools neglect their libraries, with some even converting them into classrooms. He added, “The problem is that there were competing demands in the education system and unfortunately during that battle of resources people felt libraries were not an important aspect. And that is why libraries were not given the support they were expected to be given.”
Lesufi said there are plans in place to hand books to other schools in the future.
The department is particularly collecting books that tell the story of the liberation struggle and of the heroes that fought in it.
STRUGGLE HEROES’ EMPHASIS ON EDUCATION
Struggle heroes, Ahmed Kathrada and George Bizos, also addressed the audience and both emphasised the importance of education.
Kathrada recalled how studying was a major part of life on Robben Island and how many of the prisoners went on to become successful. He says they studied for up to eight hours a day, after long days of picking and shovelling.
However, he said, it is not just a certificate or degree that makes a person educated. Such an achievement would have to come from reading and a love for learning. One such person who found success through an informal education, he says, was President Jacob Zuma.
“His family had no money so he could not study formally. But he got all his education from the Robben Island prisoners who were educated people. So he left prison after 10 years, without a certificate. But he left as an educated man. And that man has become the president of South Africa.”
Bizos looked upon teachers as society’s heralds of change, recalling how, as a boy, a teacher pulled him out of a life as a worker in his father’s shop and took him to school. This was his first step to becoming a human rights lawyer and struggle hero. “We see how important a teacher can be in the lives of young people. That’s why it is important that as government, private schools and media, we should bear in mind what a difference it can make to a young person to take part in education.”
INSPIRING CHILDREN TO READ
Lesufi said children pick up the habit of reading at home, especially when they see their parents doing it. “That’s a family thing. If your children don’t see you reading then they won’t be motivated to read.”
Play Your Part ambassador, Luvuyo Mandela, also emphasised the importance of having young people seeing adults reading books. He particularly remembers Nelson Mandela, his great-grandfather, reading a book at the end of each day, which instilled that culture within him.
“It’s all good telling young people to get educated and take care of their schoolwork, but it is also important to get young people to read for pleasure, outside of the classroom.”
He said that one should not only read for the sake of improving performance at school or at work, but to become a better human being.
Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter, Ndileka Mandela, said reading is important for children as it develops their imagination. “Today’s generation is more on the iPad and external stimuli. But when you read you use your own imagination to visualise a scene.”
She said books on the liberation struggle will teach learners about the heroes and prevent this part of South African history from being lost.