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Female duo takes a stand against illiteracy in their community

One of the leading contributors to South Africa’s illiteracy crisis is a lack of access to leisure reading material and books in different African languages. At the forefront of the battle to eradicate illiteracy in the Northern Cape, are literacy activist, Susanna Steenkamp (42) and community leader, Antoinette de Koker (56) from Danielskuil.

Susanna and Antoinette stands tall amongst South African women who are committed to transforming their communities through education. Antoinette’s Early Childhood Development Centre, Busy Bees Day Care, has been preparing the children of Danieskuil for primary education for over 15 years. Over the years, they have received numerous accolades and recognition for the stellar work that they do for the community.

“Enforcing literacy skills in children while they are still at their early childhood development phase is investing in the future of our community. What propelled me to start the day care centre was the escalating rate of school dropouts in Danielskuil. Upon looking closely into the issue, I realised that one of the reasons for that was children were not properly equipped to deal with the schooling system before they entered. I then took it upon myself to change the status quo and Busy Bees was born,” she explains.

Susanna, on the other hand, supports children across four Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in Danielskuil including Busy Bees Day Care. She works with children along their parents and educators, in order to awaken a love of reading and story sharing.

Susanna belongs to a network of passionate literacy activists, led by Nal’ibali, with a collective aim to ensure that South African children stand a chance to succeed through the power of stories and reading. Nal’ibali (IsiXhosa for ‘here is the story’) is a national reading-for-enjoyment campaign that seeks to address the literacy problems in South Africa by helping adults and children to fall in love with reading in their mother tongues.

For Susanna, the high illiteracy and school drop-out rate in her community have always been a source of frustration. She took a decision to dedicate some of her time to improving literacy in Danielskuil by volunteering for community-based organisations and projects.

“When I heard that Nal’ibali was looking for young people to implement early childhood literacy development strategies, I knew I had to get involved! The most exciting thing about our work is ensuring that children have access to quality reading material and books that are published in their own languages and reflect South African characters and settings. This makes the process so much more enjoyable for them as they can personally relate to the stories,” she says. 

Nal’ibali is built on the simple logic that a well-established reading culture can be a real game-changer for education in South Africa. A significant body of research reinforces the link between reading for pleasure and improved outcomes for children. 

Members of the public can support the campaign either by donating (www.nalibali.org) or by signing up to become a FUNda Leader. FUNda Leaders are Nal’ibali’s network of volunteers of literacy activists. It’s free and anyone can join. FUNda Leaders receive free training on reading and sharing stories with children at home, at school or in the community and will be connected to loads of stories in different South African languages.


For more information about the Nal’ibali campaign, or to access children’s stories in a range of SA languages, visit www.nalibali.org, or send the word ‘stories’ to 060 044 2254.  You can also find Nal’ibali on Facebook and Twitter: @NalibaliSA.


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