The South African Rugby Union (SARU) is looking to make a major difference in the education of South Africa’s youth by supplying fully stocked mobile or refurbished libraries to previously disadvantaged schools.
The ‘Boks for Books’ programme was announced on Thursday in Durban by SARU chief executive Jurie Roux, together with SARU president Oregan Hoskins and Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, as well as squad members of the Springboks, the Springbok Sevens, Springbok Under-20 and Springbok Women’s squad.
According to Roux, ‘Boks for Books’ is SARU’s first venture into corporate social investment and was born of a desire to make a different contribution to South African society.
“SARU is a caring corporate citizen and our teams have contributed to social cohesion and nation building by their performances on the field,” said Roux. “But we wanted to find other ways to contribute to national life.”
CHAMPIONS IN THE CLASSROOM
Roux said they chose education and literacy as a focus area as it was a priority for national government, and that there were clear synergies with rugby: “Springboks are made in schools and every one of them values the chances they have been given through their schooling.
“Our ‘Boks for Books’ campaign will provide opportunities for children who could not have expected them otherwise and while we’re not trying to make them into Springboks on the field, we will be hoping that they turn them into champions in the class room.”
The Kwamanzini Primary School, the first recipient is based in Kwandengezi Township on the outskirts of Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal. The school has 1 413 learners from Grade R to Grade 7 and 36 teachers. The school will receive a fully functional library, including a reference section, computers and printers, costing R445 000 and will be opened at the end of August this year.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said: “I was fortunate enough to go to a school, Paarl Gym, that provided me with every opportunity – both in education as well as on the playing field. Without my school background I wouldn’t be here today.
“That’s why I believe the ‘Boks for Books’ campaign is so important and why me and my team mates are right behind it. School made me what I am – I hope this campaign will help other youngsters become all they can be.”
LIBRARIES IMPROVE PERFORMANCE
South Africa has approximately 12.3-million learners but only 8% of public schools have functional libraries. The majority of these are found in former ‘Model C’ schools where they have the resources to staff and stock libraries.
Approximately 20 000 schools are without the infrastructure to provide libraries – thereby denying learner access to regular reading and study opportunities – when it has been shown that a fully functional school library improves performance in the classroom by as much as 8%.
The Principal, Bongile Mbatha, has been running the school since 1985 together with an active School Governing Body. There have been numerous success stories at the school through the tireless efforts of the Principal, who has managed over the years to improve the infrastructure considerably with the addition of nine extra classrooms.
The Governing Body has raised money to purchase shelving for a library, but due to the lack of books and reference material, the school is still in need of library resources. It is clear from the success already achieved at this school, that the provision of a library will further enhance their learning experience and will be fully utilized.
“As we do not have a public library close to the school, our children have to travel long distances to get to the nearest library in town, which is not safe for them,” explained Mabatha. “In an area which has high unemployment rate, where only 4% of parents are able to afford the R130 per annum schools fees, the extra money for children to travel to a library is not possible.”
JUST THE FIRST STEP
Mbatha thanked SARU for choosing their school, adding that receiving a library would be of great assistance to both the school’s learners as well as the community at large: “We want to ensure that our learners become independent and are able to research information for their learning subjects as well as read for pleasure to broaden their minds.
“I was not exposed to a library as a young learner and my first experience of this was at university. I would not like our learners to experience the same.”
Roux pointed out that choosing Kwamanzini was just the first step of the campaign, and that SARU would be opening more libraries and announcing more initiatives to promote literacy among South Africa’s children over the coming months and years.
“I am also excited to announce that a number of our sponsors have immediately expressed their desire to partner in this project and we will be making further announcements in due course,” he said. “We are committed to making a difference by putting something back into South African society.”