The FunDza Family Team: Dorothy Dyer and Nandi Tshabane

Four days after FunDza had been officially incorporated as a nonprofit trust, it made its first book donation: 10 copies of the book Broken Promises to Ikamva Youth in Masiphumelele. There was a hand-over event at the Masiphumelele library with dancing, ululating and speeches. It was a heady time, which so much excitement about doing this new work – getting beautiful and exciting books into the hands of our teens and youth.

Since then FunDza has donated 14,548 funzines, 129,427 books and 310,762 pocket booklets to 614 organisations around the country. Many of the organisations have been under-resourced schools, or organisations working with young people as part of an afterschool programme. Some have been small community libraries, or they have formed part of a CSI-sponsored project. What has united all these groups has been a desire to help grow a love of reading among the young people the books have reached.

We’ve received amazing feedback over the years and can see how our books have helped to spark a ‘reading revolution’ – as Ben Henderson of the Khula Foundation in rural KwaZulu-Natal called it when he wrote to us in 2012. He said that now that FunDza’s books were in their schools, learners were coming early to school or staying in at break to find out what happened next in an exciting Harmony High!

We’ve loved the feedback from our many readers, and the exciting innovation and experimentation that we’ve put into the programme.

However, sadly, the covid-19 pandemic closed down our former book distributor, and this coupled with a number of other factors, has meant that we’ve decided to hand over our ‘Family’ programme to another literacy NGO for whom book distributions is their core work, Biblionef. This will enable us to focus more fully on our online platform, and realise the big plans we have for it.

Biblionef has been supporting the growth of a reading culture in schools and communities across South Africa for the past 20 years. They have donated more than 1.8-milllion books into schools and – like us – they believe that local stories and relevant content is vital if we are to ignite a love of reading in young people.

Biblionef also has the warehousing space, the distribution capacity and the staffing to take over the physical operations of our Family programme and to ensure that our books reach those communities that need them the most.

This change – which will take place from 1 July – means that we will refer any requests for book donations to Biblionef, but that we will continue to offer support and training to any groups who want to use our books but are not sure how. Our training is offered online through our zero-rated platform.

We hope that this partnership with Biblionef will strengthen both of our organisations. Biblionef will now have even more fantastic books to support high school learners across the country, and we too will be able to concentrate our efforts on our online programmes, which are showing significant growth and engagement.

We hope too that there will be opportunities for us to continue to be involved in the creation of print resources, because we know that our content – whether in print or on a screen – is loved by many. And the more young people we can get reading the better!

Sadly, this means that Nandi Tshabane, the manager of our Family programme for the past five years, will be leaving us. We know that she has made many friends in the literacy space, and that she has brought so much passion to her work. She will be sorely missed. We wish her everything of the best as she explores new opportunities, and we thank her for all she has done for FunDza and the young people whom we serve.