Axium Education, based in rural Eastern Cape, is bridging the gap between home and school literacy through a reading programme featuring community readers or “Nobalisas”. Nobalisas are young adults from the surrounding area who are being upskilled through the programme, and are becoming advocates for literacy in their community. In this article, Axium provides the details of their programme, implementation experiences and lessons learned.
As a rural village, there are a number of barriers to reading for enjoyment in Zithulele, where literacy levels remain low. These include:
- Limited access to services such as electricity and running water. This means children have to assist with tasks such as collecting water and firewood, leaving little time for recreational activities like reading.
- A lack of reading material and ‘print-rich’ environments, due to limited advertising and no newspaper delivery points in the area.
- Overstretched and ill-equipped teachers who are not adequately trained or supported. Many have to travel far distances to reach the schools in which they work.
- Large class sizes, which place additional strain on teachers and the already limited availability of resources.
- A high rate of adult illiteracy, which means many caregivers lack the skills and/or confi dence to read to children or help them learn to read at home.
When devising our Community Reading Programme, we identified a clear ‘gap in the market’: Zithulele is home to many young adults with a desire to gain new skills, but who have few opportunities to access formal training or better themselves. As a way to bridge this gap, the programme seeks to harness the potential of unemployed youth to act as storytellers and reading club faciliators for their younger peers. Not only are they able to earn a stipend as Nobalisas, they also receive personal development training so that they can emerge from the programme well-equipped to enter other professional environments. Furthermore, as members of the community, they are also better able see changes in their community as a direct result of their involvement – a powerful motivating factor for them to join and stay with the programme.