What rubbish are kids reading? The very best kind
A soldier and his friends are turning bins into libraries for children of military personnel
Children living in flats at the country’s military base in Thaba Tshwane will soon be able to find adventure in their nearest rubbish bin.
They will be travelling to exotic lands, exploring and discovering, and becoming anyone they want to be – all through books.
The Siyafunda “We are learning” Donate a Book programme has come up with a “crazy unconventional idea” to turn bins into libraries.
“After witnessing the damaged trash cans or dustbins in Pretoria, we saw the need to convert them into bin libraries that can store more than 500 books,” Siyafunda founder Ntokozo Ndlovu told Times Select.
The idea is to fill the bins with children’s books and drop them at every flat in Thaba Tshwane for the children to “just grab a book and read”.
“The plan is to keep refilling the bin with more books every day. Even adults can do a book exchange,” Ndlovu said.
The project is aptly named Umgqom’wolwazi, a Zulu word meaning “bin of knowledge”.
“The aim is to change the narrative. At Siyafunda we believe that a great library doesn’t have to be big or beautiful. It doesn’t have to be the best facility or have the most efficient staff or the most users.
“The aim of Umgqom’wolwazi is to provide free and easy access to childrens’ books, any time, everywhere, all the time. It is unconventional in the life of a community in a way that makes it indispensable,” Ndlovu said.
Ndlovu, a human resources clerk at the SA Army College, and his team have delivered more than 21,000 books to children since he made a Facebook appeal for books for his nephews four years ago.
He collected more that 4,000 from that single post in 2015.
The Siyafunda story began when Ndlovu started receiving 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 whether there was a real need for libraries and infrastructure, whether children were reading and whether teachers were promoting a culture of reading.
Their research revealed there was no national policy for school libraries which would compel every school to have one.
Only 21% of state schools have libraries, only 7% have books in those libraries, and 79% of schools have no library at all.
Ndlovu has since distributed 21,450 books to 37 rural schools and three rural dual-school community libraries, reaching more than 11,000 children.
In 2016, when Siyafunda received the Gauteng Youth Excellence Award, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said: “We appreciate the work done by Siyafunda Donate a Book in ensuring that rural primary schools receive library books in support of teaching, learning and reading.”