On Monday the 23rd of April, I celebrated World Book Day as a guest of the Johannesburg e-learning team. The event was held at Jabavu Library and over 30 learners were invited from 4 local schools to come and enjoy a day comprised of a workshop by FunDza, storytelling and a quiz.
The e-learning mission is to make the internet an addition to the library shelves, to popularize e-learning and its benefits and how best to do this rather than to help the learners get computer literate? So as soon as I arrived with Mr Jeff Nyoka, the e-learning manager, 30 laptops were set up and the learners were told that pen and paper will be taking a break. Excitement filled the room but was soon replaced by shame and bowed heads when Mr Nyoka asked who had used a laptop before? Less than 5 learners out of over 30 raised their hands. You would imagine that in such a mobile time, a time in which e-learning is really an answer to the demands of the times, learners would have had an encounter with a laptop before. But this was a reflection on the imbalances in our education system. Whereas learners in suburban schools have access to a fully furnished resource centre, the learners in a township high school still have to share a text book.
I ran part of a Write Smart workshop and got the learners to write a poem titled Coming Home using their 5 senses as a guide and because of the new relationship between learners and laptops the pieces didn’t have the strength they could have if pen and paper were used but the sweet fruits of this day were seeing the smiles on the learners every time they wrote a full word on the laptop.
As a reward for the hour long workshop learners got a booklet from our Human Rights series. One learner, after opening her book, Chasing Dreams written by Ros Haden rushed towards me and said “Maam! Maam! Look, my name is in the book.” She held out the book and pointed to the name, Thuli. “My full name is Thulisile, but everyone calls me Thuli,” she said, beaming with pride. “You were right,” she ended and walked away.
I was right for before the workshop when I introduced FunDza and what we do and stand for I told the learners that we make books about people just like them, with issues just like theirs. The boy and girls in the stories published by FunDza look exactly like the people seated next to them. And now, it seems the characters have the same names as the learners too.
For me, books are all about giving readers new experiences, opening up new worlds and possibilities to us, and writing us into history and representing us well and carefully and on this world book day that was achieved.
Here is a little of what Jeff Nyoka had to say about the day:
“In celebration of World Book Day, on the 23rd April 2018 the City of Joburg Libraries elearning services invited an NGO Fundza Literacy Trust to conduct a Digital Creative Writing Workshop at the Jabavu Library elearning classroom. This was the first elearning-based creative writing workshop for the City of Joburg libraries. The project aims to increase love for reading by encouraging young people to write their own stories from a South African perspective about their experiences and also to find similar stories online, written by their peers. Learners were excited to not only get a chance to use the elearning classroom laptops but also to write stories in their own voice and the possibility of seeing their stories online for others to read.”