Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Lufufe Kwetshube Was Terrified By Reading

This arrived from the Cape Town Book Fair people unsolicited:

Cape Town Book Fair literacy campaign set to change lives.

By Joanne Smetherham

Lufufe Kwetshube was paralysed by shyness and his terror of reading in his first year at Observatory Junior School, Cape Town. He would answer questions in monosyllables and dared not look adults in the eye.

“We thought he would be one of the small minority whom we wouldn’t be able to help,” said Maurita Weissenberg, founder of the Shine Literacy Programme at the school.

Lufefe entered the literacy programme in his second year, after he failed the first set of national benchmark tests on literacy – as did a staggering three-quarters of his classmates, who all took part in the programme. To Weissenberg’s surprise and delight, Lufefe was a transformed child after 18 months.

Within months, he was able look adults in the eye and answer them with confidence. Best of all, he was asking to read books. And instead of avoiding the imaginary games using plastic animals, he would eagerly ask: “Can I please play that one?” Then he would come up to hold up a giraffe or a zebra, telling his tutor all about it.

“He’s happy, and he’s enjoying learning. I’m so proud,” said Lufefe’s grandmother Princess Lutshebe, who is bringing him up because his mother died. “Help with literacy was all he needed to change this child’s life and allow him to take control of his future,” said Weissenberg. “And it didn’t even take that much.”

Lufefe is one of large numbers of South African children who do not receive the help with literacy that they need, in their school lessons. A study by the UCT Children’s Institute last year found that two-thirds of junior school learners nationally were functionally illiterate and innumerate. It is against this background that the Cape Town Book Fair (CTBF) together with Literacy Campaign (LitCam) of the Frankfurt Book Fair – a part-owner of the Cape Town Book Fair - as well as community organisations is launching a far-reaching literacy campaign.

This will see reading and learning (RaL) rooms set up in the poorest areas of Cape Town, and will also include a writing competition and a conference on literacy. “Literacy allows people to reach their full potential as human beings, and enables us to take part in society, especially in our globalised world,” says CTBF Director Claudia Kaiser. “Our vision is to give people easy access to books, in their own neighbourhoods, because people can’t always get to libraries”, adds Karin Ploetz, director of LitCam.

There will be a variety of books and learning tools in the RaL rooms, where special literacy programmes and workshops will take place. The project leaders will work in co-operation with the librarians at the new Khayelitsha library. The campaign organisers will also hire teachers to work in the RaL rooms.

The first three reading rooms in Cape Town - two in Khayelitsha and one in Mfuleni - will be finished by July 29. This is also the date of the launch of the RaL-room project. Five more RaL rooms will be finished by October.

The proposal for the RaL-rooms has been integrated into a broader community action plan, said Michael Krause, team leader of Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrading (VPUU), one of the community organisations working with CTBF on the literacy project. “The reading rooms are what the community wants,” he said. “The project will start small, but the model could be widely replicated. It’s a great partnership.”

The first RaL-room will be in a building in the Western Forecourt of the Khayelitsha train station, where volunteers, some of whom have poor literacy skills, work for a local neighbourhood watch. The second RaL-room will be a container near a crèche in Monwabisi Park. A VPUU secretary will work there, issuing books to the crèche teachers for the children. The third will be at the Women for Peace centre in Mfuleni, catering for families. The aim is to set up further RaL rooms in Pretoria.

The learning tools in the RaL rooms will be Discovery Boxes, provided by Siemens, which contain materials for children to conduct 22 science experiments. Poet, performer and writer Diane Ferrus will be among those running writing workshops for children at the RaL rooms, and acclaimed poet and writer Antjie Krog will be among the authors who will give readings.
A writing competition called “Football moments – short stories from the townships” will be announced at the launch of the RaL-rooms. In addition, the CTBF is also organising a conference at which organisations working on literacy will be able to share their experiences and network. This will take place on Saturday July 31 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, during the CTBF.

LitCam is an international literacy and basic education campaign launched four years ago by the Frankfurt Book Fair and its partners. One of its projects, Football Meets Culture, aims to help some of Germany’s four million illiterate children. The children taking part in the programme experience the fun of football along with remedial education, and discovery that learning can be fun, the programme organisers have said.

In his literacy lessons with Shine at Observatory Junior School little Lufefe, too, made this discovery. His tutor, Leigh-Anne Nathan, remembers a day three months into the programme, when he came in as shyly as always. However, when he lifted his head to greet her, he grinned, showing off a big set of false teeth. Leigh-Anne burst out laughing, just as Lufefe had wanted, and realised they had made a breakthrough. Lufefe was enjoying himself.

The Cape Town Book Fair runs from 30 July to 2 August. This year for the first time the first day of the fair will be a trade day, with the fair opening to the public on 31 July. For more information on the CTBF visit and join our Facebook page to take part in competitions, write a story that will be read at the Fair and much more.

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