Rural schools and communities working together for literacy

  • Exploring a story. Good quality stories are intergenerational and have the power to captivate a wide audience.
    Access to books and literacy materials are some of the biggest challenge faced by schools in rural areas. Adults are encouraged to get to know the books and stories now available in their schools.

    Working to strengthen the natural partnerships between schools and communities, close to 3 000 parents, caregivers, and representatives from community organisations such as churches and libraries attended special community training at the rural schools that form part of Nal’ibali’s Story Powered Schools network in Ugu and Uthukela in KwaZulu-Natal and Maluti and Mbizana in the Eastern Cape.

    “It takes a village to raise a child,” says Story Powered Schools programme manager, Michael Cekiso, explaining the valuable role that parents and other adults can play in the upbringing and literacy learning of all our children.

    Children are learning all the time: in the home and in the community. Learning doesn’t only happen at school. Children are learning whether they are playing, listening to a story or simply observing the adults around them going about their daily lives. This type of informal learning is powerful because it means that all adults, no matter their experience or education level, can act as role models and teachers for their children, simply by telling or sharing a story with them in their mother tongue.

    The ability to read is the foundation of all learning and when adults read or share stories with children in relaxed and engaging ways – and in languages they understand, they are inspired to learn to read and write themselves. Using the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign’s proven approach to literacy development, the Story Powered Schools project has been helping school staff and volunteers in select schools make use of reading-for-enjoyment practices before, during and after school since the start of the year. Now, it is encouraging the support of the wider community to ensure that these children are given every possible chance to fulfil their potential.

    Rural communities in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal face some of the biggest challenges when it comes to education; battling a significant lack of resources and materials but community members were urged to act, rather than despair.

    Emphasising what can be achieved when schools and communities work together, the training covered the importance of early-childhood development – or what parents and caregivers can do at home before their children start school to jump-start their learning; the benefits of using home languages or more than one language; and how libraries, churches and other organisations, as well as individuals, can support the work of schools by setting up and running reading clubs their own reading clubs or supporting those of the schools.

    In addition to the training provided, community members were directed towards the Story Powered Schools web- and mobisites ( and where they can find free stories in home languages as well as tips, ideas and guides on how to share these with children or set up their own reading clubs. Members of the public interested in making use of these approaches and free resources are encouraged to do so.

    By Nal’ibali | Jun 03, 2017


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