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Promoting a culture of reading in South Africa: The FUNda Leader Movement

In the spirit of South African Youth Month, the Nal’ibali national reading-for-enjoyment campaign is hosting a Youth Day round table panel discussion at Centre for the Book on Thursday, 14 June. The panel will include activists who are passionate about youth, language and advocacy work.  The story of 16 June 1976 encompasses two of Nal’ibali’s values – activism and the belief that every child has the right to be educated in a language they understand. 

“A love of storytelling and sharing stories is inherited by us as South Africans. To cultivate a culture of reading in South Africa, we need more young people to become reading role models. I’m extremely passionate about literacy and would like to activate a love for books in children. Especially children from townships,” explains Liziwe Ndalana, a literacy activist and one of the panelists.

The improvement of literacy rates is a universal concern. As a nation we can draw inspiration from other countries that have called on activists to resolve issues around literacy. The Cuban Literacy Campaign, through the agency of citizens, was able to drastically reduce the country’s illiteracy rates. Closer to home, Tanzania also ran a successful adult literacy campaign in the 1970s that was championed by local activists. Ultimately, we see that with citizen agency, change is possible. 

“Considering how South Africa became a democratic nation, and the struggles people overcame in hope of a better future for generations to come, we cannot deny the power activism holds in changing the social landscape in South Africa,” says Thembakuye Madlala, Nal’ibali Digital Strategist. “A sentiment shared by many is that our education system is in crisis. One of the ways in which the country can overcome this is by instilling a sense of activism and responsibility in people of all ages in our communities. The Nal’ibali FUNda Leader network aspires to do this. FUNda Leaders are everyday people who have raised their hands to help ensure that all South Africa’s children are given a better chance to succeed through the power of stories and reading, in the languages they understand best.  FUNda Leaders are generally passionate adults who care about and respect children and want to help them learn and become literate through fun and relaxed interaction with stories. They are activists by nature and eager to share their free time by storytelling and reading on a volunteer basis, in the quest to get South Africa reading. By the end of 2017 we had 5752 registered FUNda Leaders spread across the country. There are many ways to be a FUNda Leader. These will be explored during the Youth Day round table discussion and the impact our FUNda Leaders have had in their respective communities will be shared.” 

Nal’ibali FUNda Leaders and literacy activists are encouraged to take part in this discourse – it’s an opportunity for likeminded individuals to brainstorm solutions to the literacy issues that affect all South Africans.  The FUNda Leader panel and audience will together also discuss reclaiming African languages in education, and the importance of South African young people in promoting a culture of reading for enjoyment. 

Nal'ibali believes in the relevance of having round table discussions with young people, to explore possible ways they can become literacy role models and help to create a nation brimming with children who can read and, more importantly, who read for enjoyment. 

To RSVP for the Youth Day Roundtable discussion, email:


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