Na'ibali Western Cape activists lead a wave of change
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Na'ibali Western Cape activists lead a wave of change

Launched mid-2016, Nal’ibali’s FUNda Leader movement is an avenue for everyday South Africans who want to stand up for literacy in their communities to receive specialised training and support from the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign.

Now a network of over 2 000 activists nationwide, Nal’ibali addressed the Western Cape members of its volunteer network at an imbizo on Saturday 25 March, focussing on the simple, yet effective role that young people and community members can play as reading role models to effect literacy change in their communities.

Key to the FUNda Leader movement is the understanding that literacy change in South Africa is something that anyone and everyone can be involved in.  Said Pumza Ndamase, Nal’ibali Training Coordinator: “One of the most powerful ways we can develop a generation of readers is by acting as reading role models for them.” 

Outlining the success that fellow FUNda Leaders have had in this area, the event was also an opportunity for members to engage with one another and share their ideas as well as successes and challenges in sustaining literacy in their communities. Further inspiring them, award-winning South African author and long-time literacy activist, Sindiwe Magona, shared her personal and professional journey to success; a tale that is testament to what can be achieved with determination, courage and encouragement – despite an apparent lack of immediate resources.

Magona obtained her matric certificate and Bachelor’s degree while working as a domestic worker before going on to complete her Masters, and later received an honorary doctorate from a New York arts college. Recognising the role that her own reading role models played in her achievements, she shared details on their influence.

Explained Ndamase: “Being a reading role model does not require special training or knowledge, but rather a willingness to engage children and teenagers in books and stories. Reading role models demonstrate reading as a worthwhile and satisfying experience and to talk to children about the books they are reading. They create opportunities for literacy engagement in day-to-day life.”

Research has shown that the most prominent reading role models young children have, are their parents, followed by their teachers, but all not children in South Africa have guardians who are available or able to spend time reading and sharing stories with them. Neither do the staff at South Africa’s many under-resourced schools have the capacity to engage their pupils individually in this manner.

“There is an enormous gap that young people and community members can fill in nurturing a love of reading with children in relaxed and engaging ways,” explained Ndamase, and the Nal’ibali campaign has the resources to support them. The campaign offers a range of children’s stories in a variety of South African languages for free from its web- and mobisites as well as host of literacy activities and ideas.

Showcasing the different approaches to literacy leadership, three Western Cape FUNda Leaders were profiled at the event:

  • Gadija Sydow: Turning a disused storeroom into a vibrant library and establishing a flourishing culture of reading through the setup of regular reading clubs, Gadija turned the dwindling literacy levels at Sea View Primary in Mitchells Plain around.
  • Melanie Lippert: Giving up a career in the corporate world, Melanie began volunteering at her daughter’s school and has since dedicated her life to supporting children’s literacy development.


  • Mzwandile Lugogo:  Books and stories were part of Mzwandile’s life growing up – his grandmother used to share stories with him. These early experiences have led him to be a reading role model for children in his community where he voluntarily runs regular reading club sessions.


 “We’ve heard the bad news about literacy in South Africa. We know about that. What we want to tell people is the good news: We are a growing movement of men and women who are working together to promote literacy in our communities and we are succeeding. We are here today to encourage and inspire each other,” said Magona supporting and encouraging the work of the FUNda Leaders.

Copies of Magona’s book, Books ‘N Bricks at Manyano School, were gifted to the guests to add to their personal libraries. 

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