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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor


‘Trolley for trolley’: Mobile libraries paving the way to improved literacy in SA schools

The AVBOB Road To Literacy trolley library campaign has a mother tongue focus and provides books in all 11 written official languages.


The AVBOB Road To Literacy trolley library campaign is on a roll again this year… Along with Oxford University Press Southern Africa (OUPSA), 500 trolley libraries will be donated to various primary schools and educational non-profit organisations (NPOs).

Each trolley library consists of 500 books tailored to the CAPS curriculum, with an estimated value of R50,000, bringing the total investment value for the 2024 initiative to R32.5 million.

Trolley library campaign: Making Books accessible

Now in its third year, the trolley library campaign not only makes reading and numeracy accessible, but also provides primary school children with books in their mother tongue languages.

According to a study by Kosonen, children who learn to read in their mother tongue are more likely to stay and succeed in school.

Collaborative effort

This year’s 500 trolley libraries marks a substantial increase from the 260 trolley libraries donated in 2023 and 2022’s 180 trolleys.

“This collaborative effort between AVBOB and OUPSA underscores our support to the Department of Education by providing CAPS-aligned resources to assist learners with improved reading proficiency and understanding,” said AVBOB CEO Carl van der Riet.

“Our aim is to make such initiatives available to positively impact children by making reading accessible and popular.”

ALSO READ: Why reading aloud to kids helps them learn

Trolley library campaign aims to address ‘reading for meaning’ dilemma

Van der Riet spoke at an event in Centurion where the beneficiaries of the 500 trolley libraries were announced.

He said that since South Africa was ranked last out of the 57 countries in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) in 2021, it is such partnerships that make a difference in society.

The study tested the reading ability of 400,000 students globally and showed that a shocking 81% of South African children could not read for comprehension in any of the country’s 11 official written languages.

Literacy a ‘fundamental human right’

“The skills of literacy and numeracy are not only fundamental human rights, but also the means for the pursuit of other human rights. They are the foundation for achieving education and the broader goal of reducing poverty,” said Van der Riet.

He explained that AVBOB was established to help people through challenging times and has never veered from that original purpose.

“Our environmental, social, and governance strategy underscores this commitment, guiding us to make decisions that are not only profitable but also sustainable and socially responsible,” Van der Riet said.

Importance of mother tongue reading

Guest speaker Gugulethu Ndebele, executive director of Oprah Winfrey Academy for Girls (OWLAG), provided valuable insight into the importance of mother tongue reading. 

She praised AVBOB’s long-standing and unwavering commitment to education and emphasised that the trolley libraries are only effective if they are integrated into other teaching activities and strategies in order to achieve a holistic education outcome.

Managing director of OUPSA, Karen Simpson, said: “Our mission at Oxford University Press is to transform lives through learning. We believe that partnerships with like-minded organisations, such as AVBOB, are essential in realising our vision to positively impact the lives of millions of learners anytime, anywhere”.

Mother Tongue-Based Bilingual Education from 2025?

Earlier this month, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced that Mother Tongue-Based Bilingual Education (MTbBE) will be rolled out from January 2025.

This means that learners from Grade 4 through to matric will gradually be given the option of their mother tongue language in “learning, teaching and assessment (LOLTA) for Maths, Science and Technology”.

According to Motshekga, this initiative has been tested in the the Eastern Cape and the department aims to replicate the prototype in the entire schooling system.

NOW READ: Elections 2024: Pass or fail? What you need to know about parties’ education promises

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