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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Igniting minds and empowering futures through literacy on World Book Day

C.S. Lewis, Gcina Mhlope, Dr Seuss and Roald Dahl all share a superpower. Through their words, they have continued to inspire and entertain millions across the world. Unfortunately, in South Africa, 63% of households do not have a single fiction or nonfiction book in their homes and 65% of homes with children under age 10 do not have a single picture book. Reading is one of the best ways to empower young people and equip future leaders with the creative skills needed to change the world.

The power of books in development:

Reading is fundamental in shaping young minds, developing emotional intelligence, and building the cognitive skills necessary to understand complex concepts. According to findings from the Progress in International Reading and Literacy Study (PIRLS), 81% of 10-year-olds in South Africa struggle to read with comprehension. The study shows that there are educational cracks that need to be addressed in our educational system.

The lack of books in South African households is a major contributor to this but there is a way around it. Taylor Kwong, Marketing and CSI Manager at Vuma says, “At Vuma, our mission is to connect as many learners as possible to the world of literacy. Through our Fibre to the Schools project, we’ve connected over 730 schools to free, fast, uncapped fibre internet. This initiative has provided thousands of young people with access to books through various partnerships we’ve nurtured over the years. These partnerships aim to empower young minds through reading. Our partnerships with these organisations are not just for improving the literacy rate but also fostering a more inclusive and equitable learning environment.”

The intersection between literacy and freedom:

As the world observed World Book Day on 23 April and four days later South Africa celebrates the 30th anniversary of our first democratic elections, Freedom Day, the significance of education and literacy becomes even more apparent. The right to quality education, treasured in the Bill of Rights, is the cornerstone of Vuma’s ethos. Through reading, and by extension education, a powerful group of young people who will drive economic growth and lift others out of poverty can emerge. As Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is a powerful weapon that can be used to change the world.’

“For us, that is something worth striving for. Books are more than just stories; they are tools that grow a child’s understanding and awareness of the world. Through reading, children learn to process concepts, empathise with characters, and question the world around them”, says Kwong.

Organisations like iSchoolAfrica and RuraTech, along with platforms like KiBooks, offer learners and educators unparalleled access to educational materials, anytime and anywhere, ensuring that every child can harness the power of reading. “We want to continue to facilitate that. Our partnerships with Saray Khumalo and iSchoolAfrica exemplify our commitment to empowering ordinary people to be extraordinary and creating exponential opportunities not only for our customers but also for the Internet of Things and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This paves the way for significant growth in the South African economy, changing lives and ensuring no African child gets left behind,” concludes Kwong.

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