Empowering Underprivileged Backgrounds Through Literacy

By: Esihle Makuwa-Dayimani

The Cape Town based 2019 Activator, Lungisa Sobhuwa, has been an advocate for Literacy since 2016. He was inspired to join ACTIVATE! by Vuyolwethu Mangaliso, who encouraged him to become a member. He declares: “I saw Vuyolwethu transform into a brilliant leader, which motivated me to apply for the leadership programme.”

Sobhuwa, volunteers as a Programme Co-ordinator at a Non-Profit Organization called Sikhulekile Reading Development & Life Skills. They assist over 120 learners from Grade 4, 5 and 6 in the Philippi community. Their goal as an organization is to empower children from underprivileged backgrounds through literacy. As he narrates: “The research numbers on Literacy and comprehension are saddening in South Africa. 78% of Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning a study conducted by The UNIVERSITY OF STELLENBOSCH in 2016. This is a very disturbing statistic considering the importance of literacy in the upliftment of our people.

Sobhuwa’s passion for literacy development has shun through the work he does with the workshops he conducts in his community.  These workshops encourage learners to write their own stories as well as set aside at least 15min per day for reading. On the 5th of June 2021, Sobhuwa and his learners released their first book, “The Monster in a Mask”.  It took the centre 3 years to get published, after a great deal of alternative strategies, humility, and tolerance. “We are highly grateful to The Trevor Noah Foundation who assisted us getting the book published”, continues Sobhuwa. The reading club that they have formulated has grown in numbers since the launch of their book. His team has also been introducing the book to schools in their community who have committed themselves to ensuring literacy development in their learners through the books Sikhulekile Reading Development & Life Skills delivers.

As a champion for Children’s rights, Sobhuwa would also like to be remembered as someone the community could count on. He says: “Volunteering has taught me to be patient and resilient – a skill that is exceedingly difficult to manage in a violent community such as ours. I have found solace in reading and engaging with my fellow Activators in my area, supporting their initiatives.”  Sobhuwa is also part of a team of educators who have started an annual Education Summit, whereby critical educational challenges are being discussed, amongst teachers, support centres and the community.

As much as he was one of the organizers, the summit was an eye-opener for someone outside of the classroom. Teachers face a lot of challenges in the classroom such as overcrowding; discipline; lack of resources, such as reading books. It is through the summit that we have learnt that the Department of Education does not supply learners with reading books anymore. This provides centres such as Sikhululekile more opportunity to assist learners with reading resources.

Centres such as Sikhulekile have started healthy relationships amongst Youth in Phillipi though providing them with a safe space to be themselves and more importantly, to share their stories. Sobhuwa encourages youth to volunteer their time positively to the community. He believes that one does not have to wait for resources that they do not have, but time and energy are the most crucial resources in your arsenal.

This Activator is also inspired by Kofi Annan’s quote: “Literacy unlocks the door to learning throughout life, learning is essential to development and health, and opens a way for democracy participation and active citizenship.”

Sobhuwa is truly and inspiration for a lot of township activists – he has displayed bravery when a lot of his peers has lost hope.

If you would like to order the book from Sikhulekile titled “The Monster in a Mask” please contact Lungisa Sobhuwa at 065 928 2878 or lungi09@gmail.com.





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