Activator Empowering The Youth Through Literacy

Thando Mkoyi, a self-motivated literacy specialist and Activator based in Khayelitsha, hosted yet another eye-opening Sinovuyo Township Reads workshop on literacy at the Khayelitsha Site B library on Saturday, August 20.

The event which was filled to capacity by Khayelitsha residents included- amongst others- children and parents of all ages. The event was to bring together a community faced by a growing number of learners dropping out of school due to inabilities to read and write.

“We are here to cross fertilise and to find some alternative methods on how we can get our township reading”, says Mkoyi, “Promoting the usage of our mother tongue languages and creating inclusive spaces for our children and community to read and be accountable to its own development.”

Ekukhanyeni’s Public Primary School 11-year old Oyisa Ndilele says “Ever since I joined this program I have drastically improved on my reading and writing skills at school, as a result I now read my home language [isiXhosa] with confidence and understanding.”

“I’m also part of an organisation called Nali-Bali (here is a story) which works hand-in-hand with Sinovuyo Township Reads. Nali-Bali keeps me grounded and focused as a young promising graduate”, adds Oyisa.

20-years’ service provider at the Khayelitsha library, Lindi Dyantyi, says “The importance of reading to our children helps develop verbal abilities in expressing feelings. Because I support initiatives that elevates a black child, I make sure that even learners who do not have money to make book copies at the library are assisted. I do this out of my own pocket at times.”

Delivering his message for the day, workshop organiser Thando Mkoyi said “Only 5% of children are being read to, while 17% are active readers.” He said this is tantamount to the number of learners that makes it in tertiary these days, if one gets lucky.

Mkoyi tasked Early Childhood Development Centres (ECD’s) practitioners to create a culture centred foundation phase for learners to learn to read and write at an early age. “One of the challenges we are facing is that we do all what we can at crèche, if the parents at home will not enforce their children to practise what was learnt, these children will not succeed at all if they will rely on us only”, said ECD practitioner Nosandile Mazomba.

Language Activist, Vuyisile Fefeza said that reading improves concentration and is fun if it is understandable. He added that even when one listens to the radio, IsiXhosa speaking presenters from the popular township community radio station Zibonele FM tend to mix their mother tongue with English. “ That to me doesn’t sit well because it is not like these people cannot read, write and speak their mother tongue fluently, it is because they want to fit in these so called cool circles of model-C learners”, he adds.

“The Vukani Newspaper, which is a community paper, has sections written in English, whereas English readers get their newspapers strictly in English with no compromise. Whose interests are we serving if our own community paper cannot address us in our own mother tongue?” asked Fefeza.

Cape Town TV presenter and Radio personality Doctor April, popularly known as “Mphathiswa” (Minister) said “I’m here today to give support to my fellow Activator and long- time friend in this initiative that seeks to build our communities for the better.You would remember that Khayelitsha is mostly known for its high level of crime, which in most cases the root cause of this is the continuous drop-out of black children from school because they cannot cope well.”

“Why is it that there are less children of colour that dropout from school? It is because they are able to express themselves in their mother tongue everywhere they go from an early age.”

“English is the language they use to communicate at home, it is also the language that is written in most textbooks at schools and is still the medium of instruction for everyone” added April.

However, multilingual professional storyteller Xolisa Guzula emphasised on a united front approach to tackle the literacy problem facing communities. Guzula encouraged children and parents to form relationships that are careering based and motivated.

“Parents should be curious to know what their children learn at school on a daily basis and visit the schools during the year, not only when a child fails a subject and only then interest is shown, it’s too late.” concluded  enthusiastic Guzula.

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