Mandela Day: libraries in containers

The Mandela Day container library project, an innovative response to the shortage of libaries at South African schools, will celebrate Nelson Mandela month with the handover of its 28th library – a custom-adapted 12-metre shipping container – to Alpine Primary School in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town.

mandeladay-library1Kids from Valspan Primary School in Jan Kemp Dorp in the Northern Cape province pose for a photo with their Mandela Day container library (Image: Breadline Africa)The 28th Mandela Day container library went on public display at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront at an event marking the launch of Mandela month on 1 July, and will remain on display through 18 July, Mandela’s 95th birthday as well as Nelson Mandela International Day.

Marked across the world on 18 July each year, Mandela Day aims to inspire people to take action to change the world for the better and, in doing so, to build a global movement for good.

“The public is invited to view the library, get involved in activities within and around the library, such as writing their messages of hope on the 67 minutes wall of hope, painting the external wall of the container, reading to school learners and donating books,” Puleng Phooko, programmes manager for Breadline Africa, said at launch event at the V&A Waterfront’s Clock Tower square.

Breadline Africa is one of a number of NGOs and corporates that have partnered with the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory to drive the container library project, with corporates providing financial support, sponsorship of books and employee volunteers, and literacy organisations, book donation agencies and publishers providing books, educational equipment and materials.

“The installation of Mandela Day libraries continues to spread the Mandela Day message about people’s capacity, when working together, to bring about positive change,” the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory says on its website. “The libraries promote a reading culture and address the call for equal access to resources for education.”

According to Phooko, the project, inspired by Mandela’s own love of reading and belief in the transformative power of education, can only be successful through the joint efforts of partners willing to make positive changes in children’s lives.

The first Mandela Day container library was opened on 18 July 2011 at Tsakane Primary School on the East Rand in Gauteng province, and since then a further 26 have opened, covering deserving underprivileged schools in urban and rural areas countrywide and collectively touching the lives of over 20 000 pupils.

Alpine Primary School in Mitchells Plain, which will receive the 28th library later this month, currently has no library for its 1 370 pupils.

mandeladay-library2Tackling the shortage of libraries in South African schools in an innovative, inexpensive way (Image: Nelson Mandela International Day)To ensure the sustainability of the project, the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, with support from LegalWise, Macmillan South Africa and other partners, hosted librarian training sessions in Johannesburg and Cape Town in October for teachers who run the libraries in recipient schools.

Last month, the centre hosted a networking event bringing together “the companies that sponsor libraries, publishers and booksellers, architects and engineers who help design the libraries, and non-profit organisations that make the libraries a functional reality for learners and educators”.

Tim Smith, director of Breadline Africa, appealed to corporates in South Africa and abroad to get involved in taking the project forward.

Also speaking at the event, Kimberly van Dyk, CSI manager at JPMorgan Chase Bank, spoke of the bank’s sponsorship of a library, saying it was well received by people working at the bank, especially at its New York headquarters.

Florina Tshikane, principal of Meadowlands Primary School in Soweto, spoke of the her pupils’ excitement about their container library, which opened in August. “They are so enthusiastic about the library,” she said. “They rush to library during break time.”

First published on SouthAfrica.info – South Africa’s Official Gateway