Asifundze means “Let Us Read” in SiSwati. Penreach Partners TracN4, SAGE, FNB and the Shalamuka Foundation are opening up the world to 3 000 young children who would not have access to books and the wonderful world of reading otherwise.
At the heart of the Penreach Asifundze programme lie an extremely successful phenomenon, namely the Penreach Reading Camps. Started in 2014 with the sole purpose to improve literacy and providing access to reading material to under-resourced communities, hese volunteer-driven camps currently serve 72 communities in Mpumalanga.
Reading Camps have become a Penreach unique phenomenon in Mpumalanga, and are solely community volunteer-driven. The project aims to reach out to children who have no access to libraries, more significantly these Reading Camps keep the children off the streets and keep them creatively engaged after school.
One of these Reading Camps is run by Adelaide Ngema, who, together with her husband in the rural community of Lehau, adjacent to Vukasambe Primary School, opened up their home and yard for children to enjoy further reading after school.
Their camp has become extremely popular with the children from surrounding areas. There are currently 205 children attending the camp, from grades 1 – 7. Although the camps are targeted at improving literacy in the Foundation phase (Grade 1 – 3), older children are welcomed and often utilized as “Reading Buddies” to the younger children. “Camp Adelaide”, initially open 3 days a week, now operates 5 days a week but due to its popularity and the enthusiasm of the children.
Adelaide credits the success and popularity of her reading camp to her extreme love for children, her motherly heart and to her total dedication as a volunteer. Adelaide exclaims, “I thrive to contribute to the improvement of the Lehau community and the future of our children”.
Such success does not, however, come without its fair share of challenges. Although Adelaide made the decision to move into another home with a bigger yard and a garage, the growing number of children continues to be overwhelming. The community of Lehau also experiences typical Lowveld extreme heat and large numbers of children have to sit in the sun, whilst they read and engage in creative play. Neither the garage or the trees in the yard can provide adequate shelter for all the eager youngsters.
According to Adelaide, “Penreach has provided the training and support that I need. They visit the camps and bring the book banks with reading material for the children to use.” Another one of Penreach Reading Camp Volunteer’s is Jabulile Shiba says, “I do this because I am passionate about the future of our children. They can read and write better now.” Jabulile’s camp has 150 children attending and she feels that “Communication is key”, as she consistently communicates with the parents of the children, as well as the school’s educators.
Penreach is delighted to have Penryn College scholars’ committed to contributing positively in their community by assisting with the children in Reading Camps as part of their community service. This will ultimately contribute to a more literate nation, one reading camp at a time as part of Penreach fruitful endeavours in reaching out to One and All, 8.9 million South Africans.Quoting Jabulile who says, “If I help one child, it is the start of helping the nation and without education, we are nothing.”
Literacy statistics for South Africa
By grade 6, South African children are not yet reading to learn but still learning to read in their mother tongue and in English, the language of instruction.
While, after four years of formal schooling, (Grade 4), 58% of learners in under-resourced schools cannot comprehend the meaning of what they are reading in English.
11% cannot read a single word in English.
29% are considered illiterate.
There are 850 000 children between 0 and 9 years in Mpumalanga that require adequate instruction in Literacy & Numeracy.