FunDza works with a network of beneficiary groups – called the FunDza Family – around the country that receive books and reading resources to support a culture of reading and writing in their communities.

We caught up for five minutes to ask five questions with one of our ‘Family members’ – Cebo Solombela from Mbizana, Eastern Cape – to find out how his literacy intervention was going. Cebo works with the Nelson Mandela Institute, one of the beneficiary groups in the FunDza Family network.

Q: What motivated you to start a literacy club in your community?

I have always loved reading and writing short stories, and wanted to one day, gather a group of young people whom I could transfer my knowledge to. In 2013 I was working for an organisation called Sifunda Kunye Project in Mbizana working with young people to instill in them a culture of proper and effective literacy. It was in 2015 when I joined the Nelson Mandela Institute to continue with the work of encouraging reading and reading for the young people of Mbizana. At that time the Nelson Mandela Institute was a beneficiary of FunDza receiving books for our literacy interventions. There is a crisis of reading and writing in the Eastern Cape and I took it upon myself to be a foot soldier to try and solve the problem as best I could through using the FunDza material.

Q: Has there been any improvement in the literacy levels since your intervention?

Firstly, let me highlight how the incredible assistance of FunDza has allowed us to have an array of material to work with – from the books in the Harmony High series to the anthologies #CantStopReading and #OhMyWords. We are indeed spoiled for choice and the children love the interactive activities in the books. There has been drastic improvement because at first, young boys thought education and reading were things girls were only good at, however since a man is leading the programme they have now started seeing me as a role model.

Q: How would you describe the relationship your project has with FunDza Literacy Trust?

It is an ongoing fruitful relationship that is accompanied by regular check-ups and tangible support. The books we receive from FunDza allow our literacy project to thrive and the children have adopted a positive attitude towards reading and writing. The books that we receive are relatable and because of that, we notice that the children are more drawn to reading now because they can find traces of themselves in the stories.

Q: What are some of the challenges you have experienced working in remote areas especially with children in the Intermediate Senior Phase?

When I started working with children who had the challenges of reading and writing, I noticed that there were not a lot of teachers especially males, who wanted to work with children in the Intermediate Senior phase. It was quite challenging to get started because I had to develop trust with the learners and stake holders in order for the project to work. The other challenge was that of finding reading materials that would be relevant to the learners. Text books are not necessarily books that people read for pleasure and it was important for me to find content that had a lot of interactive activities.

Q: Have you noticed any improvement in the learners from the day you started till now?

There has been some milestones indeed, especially with the male students. In the beginning they would be shy to read out loud or raise their hands to answer some of the oral questions relating to the stories we would read. What I am seeing now is an increased desire to learn and they even go as far as converting the stories to other forms of writing and entertainment such as poetry, music and debating. That on its own is a win because in the beginning they were not confident enough to contribute to the process of learning.

Cebo ended the interview by saying: “Thank you FunDza for your invaluable support, we hope to see you in September for our Literacy Week.”

And, we look forwarding to meeting you too, Cebo, at the Mbizana Literacy Week in September.