'Reading has to be seen as a serious investment'

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) has revealed that nearly half of South Africa's children have never read a book with a parent, raising questions about whether or not there has been a culture of reading harnessed in the country.

Puku Foundation executive director Elinor Sisulu has provided context to the problem, with a look at the history of the migrant labour system which has lead to the absence of parents.

She further reflects on Stats SA's research showing that only 33.8% of children live with both parents, while 43.1% of children live with their mother and one in five children live with neither of their parents

Sisulu says the statistics are not surprising and that if you look at the structural damage of apartheid to this day, the majority of parents still have to travel long distances to work and back.

Looking at the work of nongovernmental organisations and government departments, she says more support is needed.

I think one of the big solutions is libraries within schools. The Gauteng Department of Education has done an audit on school libraries, showing that the vast majority of schools don't have functioning school libraries.

Elinor Sisulu, Executive director - Puku Foundation

The heart of the matter is that reading has to be seen as a serious investment. All these organisations, including the one I head, survive on donor funding. We need far more support.

Elinor Sisulu, Executive director - Puku Foundation

Then there is the cultural issue, reading needs to have a cultural context. It is very important and that is to do with language, the local environment because literature is about windows and mirrors. Unfortunately in Africa what we have had mostly is looking out of the window and never knowing ourselves. If you look at you and I for example, when was it that we read a book that reflected our own cultural context?

Elinor Sisulu, Executive director - Puku Foundation

Sisulu says the education system has also affected the confidence of black parents, as well as the belief that they are agents in their children acquiring the ability to read.

Click on the link below to hear the full conversation...


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