Mending inequality one book at a time

The Intsomi Project brings literacy education into the home by making books and other useful resources available to workers at Rhodes University and their children.

Rhodes University book intsomi family
The Intsomi Project brings families and communities together through reading. (Image: Brand South Africa)

Hunter Nestadt
“Since joining the Intsomi Project in 2015, I have discovered the joy of reading with my child. My daughter and I have so much fun reading together. When you find a story you enjoy together, it’s like magic. My little girl now insists on a bedtime story every night,” said Lush Mhleli, one of the first participants in the Intsomi Project.

Forming an integral part of the Vice Chancellors Education Initiative, the Intsomi Project founded at Rhodes University has already had a profound impact on the lives of many families.

It was originally aimed towards the workers of Rhodes and their children but due to its success, it has spread to the greater community. By showing how important Home Literacy Programmes (HLPs) can be in a child’s education, the Intsomi Project brings education into the home, in a fun and interactive way.

Rhodes University Intsomi project book
Intsomi parents express great pleasure at the positive outcomes of the Intsomi Project. (Image: Intsomi Parents Grahamstown, Facebook)

The isiXhosa word, intsomi directly translates to “traditional story”, which is an appropriate name as the project focusses on the importance of reading in a child’s education.
By allocating children books according to their age groups, the programme is made personal to each participant, which makes a positive result more likely.

Split into three different packs that are collected from the Rhodes University Community Engagement (RUCE) offices on a weekly basis, the books vary considerably as the student progresses through the programme. Books are written in English and isiXhosa.

A pink shweshwe bag is given to children between the ages of zero and five. This contains six books. Between the ages of six and nine, children are given a blue bag containing six slightly more complex books. The final stage is aimed at children between the ages of 10 and 13, where the content’s complexity increases.

Rhodes University radio packages book Intsomi
Radio packages contribute to the Intsomi Project spreading further than just the workers at Rhodes University and into the greater community. (Image: Intsomi Parents Grahamstown, Facebook)

Due the enthusiasm of the participants and a small group of Rhodes students, Intsomi has spread further than what was previously expected. Radio and television coverage have made the material widely accessible to the greater Grahamstown community.

Another participant, Siphokazi Yako, said: “The children in my home love the books I bring home to read. It’s a great way of spending time together and they all join in now, even the ones that were shy in the beginning. It is also helping them with their language skills at school where they have to learn in English.”

It is in projects like Intsomi that we find hope for a future where there is equal access to education for all in South Africa.

Source: Grocott’s Mail

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