Breaking down barriers through reading

Breaking down barriers through reading

Literacy played a key role in the vision and mantra of the resistance movement in the struggle against apartheid and is at the heart of South Africans addressing educational inequalities. Because not only did the apartheid government control access to education, which were poorly funded in non-white communities, they also created a ring fence around what was considered suitable content.

This suppression of cultural identity (from what languages are taught in school as well as what version of history) and the disparity in quality education between the races during the apartheid era government has led to the ‘lost generation’. The lost generation represents the educational gap in our population from this period in South Africa’s history – the parents and grandparents of the children in schools today. It is this inequality in education that The Love Trust aims to address.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

The ability to speak, read and write in one’s mother tongue freely was a point of contestation from the start because it’s such an important vehicle of cultural identity and heritage. Despite most South African’s being multilingual by necessity (there are 11 officially languages with English being the one mostly used in business), when you compromise and become adept at a language that is not your mother tongue there is big risk of losing one’s cultural roots and identity. On top of which, others may label you a hypocrite and a sell-out of your own cultural heritage. Sadly, a person’s intelligence is also often judged, superficially, on their mastery and pronunciation of a language.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” – Nelson Mandela

The Love Trust hopes to start rectifying these issues by providing access to quality education to one of South Africa’s poorest communities. The ability to read and write is breaking down barriers: the racial barrier, the gender discrimination barrier, and allows for a rich cultural heritage to be communicated. And when one is able to read and write freely in one’s mother tongue, then you’re able to communicate this to the world which engenders self-confidence and cultural pride that spills into communities.

Nokuphila Primary School includes isiZulu as part of our curriculum and it’s taught in its native vernacular by first language speakers such as Siboniso Mbatha. Not only is Mr Mbatha providing learners with a comfortable and familiar space to speak in their mother tongue, but is also providing them with the tools to harness the Zulu language to craft and navigate the world around them. Mr Mbatha has also written a number of books in isiZulu that cover serious topics that the learners can relate with. His latest book, Ngalifela Ize Leze, (translation: ‘I died for nothing’) tells the story of a man who was accused by his brother of witchcraft after the man’s niece dies suddenly. He hopes that after reading this people won’t be too quick to blame someone else for their misfortune.

Another book titled, Izinyembezi Zenkedama, (translation: ‘Tears of an orphan’) focuses on the life of a young boy abused by his guardians (his grandmother and uncle), who is accused of elderly abuse while he was in grade 10 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. His sister becomes a lawyer and goes on a crusade to prove that he has been wrongfully accused and demands his freedom. While in prison he completes his matric and studies to become a pastor. The message that Mr Mbatha wants the reader to understand is that no matter what difficulties you face, school (education) can always be your solution.

Mr Mbatha believes that not only is literacy an effective medium to communicate ideas through but it’s also how we preserve cultural heritage and history, which for centuries have mostly been carried down through generations verbally. By providing learners with engaging and relatable stories in their own language Mr Mbatha hopes to foster a love of reading and inspire writers of tomorrow.

“One of the sad realities today is that very few people, especially young people, read books. Unless we can find imaginative ways of addressing this reality, future generations are in danger of losing their history.” – Nelson Mandela