Youth-Run Village Libraries in Rural South Africa
The level of literacy in South Africa is extremely low. 78% of Grade 4 students cannot read for meaning in any language and 29% are completely illiterate. This literacy crisis is even more severe in rural South African villages, where there is very little access to books. Most adults do not read to children and many are illiterate. In the rural Eastern Cape villages, there are no libraries or books for reading for pleasure, either at school or in the family homes.
One consequence is that in school students are unable to engage with what is being taught. With every day spent struggling, students fall behind, become demotivated and disillusioned as to whether there is any hope or future for them inside the school system. It is not surprising that 50% of South Africa’s students drop out of school early, without any formal qualification.
To improve literacy in the rural villages, Youth Potential South Africa – YOUPSA has established Mobile Village Libraries for all ages, providing a platform for “Village Book Clubs” for young people to experience reading, learning, listening and discussing outside of school. Each Mobile Library consists of a strong carrier bag containing 30 – 35 beautiful and exciting books for all ages, plus a lending register. The Mobile Library can be taken from village to village, from home to home. From this the YOUPSA Village Book Clubs have arisen.
An important aspect of these clubs is the focus on reading for enjoyment, allowing children to choose what they love to read. This gives children the opportunity and freedom to read and discuss outside of school and during holiday times. When the club is ready to get a new batch of books, YOUPSA exchanges the old books for new ones. The librarians keep a register of the books their readers while learning practically how to manage a library. YOUPSA staff mentor youth and teachers about book care and the value of literature.