The National Library of South Africa (NLSA) in collaboration with the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) and George Municipality will be hosting the 10th Funda Mzantsi Championship in George, Western Cape from 23 to 27 September 2019 under the theme “Building Creative Minds”.
The Funda Mzantsi project was started as part of the NLSA’s mandate to inculcate a culture of reading amongst South Africans. The project was in response to the survey conducted by the South African Book Development Council in 2007 on general reading habits in South African communities. The survey revealed that South Africa is not a reading nation. The NLSA intervene by way of establishing book clubs in communities and schools.
In 2010 the Funda Mzantsi Championship was established to assess book club’s reading and comprehension abilities. The Funda Mzantsi Championship is a reading competition where book clubs compete against each other in categories including reading, book review, debate, and spelling bee. Winners of the competition take home medals and trophies.
“The National Library of South Africa takes pride in contributing toward Outcome 14 of the National Development Plan which deals with Nation Building and Social Cohesion. Through this Funda Mzantsi Championship, we are able to bring together minds, both young and old, breaking the racial, gender and social status boundaries in pursuit of the same goal. It is so encouraging and motivating to see the impact of the Competition on the book clubs. We continue to pledge our support to the United Nations’ theme of 2019 being the ‘International Year of Indigenous Languages’,” said Mr. Lufuno Nematswerani, Acting CEO of the National Library of South Africa.
In 2013 the Department of Correctional Services upon realising the role reading played in the rehabilitation of offenders decided to join hands with the NLSA. This annual programme is also used by DCS to encourage offenders to develop appreciation and knowledge through reading of books, reviewing, provide analysis and engage in constructive debates on topical issues. Correctional Services will be represented by thirty-three (33) book clubs this year (2019) as opposed to the 24 book clubs in 2018. This is comprised of thirty (30) offender book clubs, two (02) book clubs consisting of parolees and one (01) book club of DCS officials. This gives a total of 330 participants under the DCS banner, as translated into 300 inmates, 20 parolees and 10 DCS officials.
The process of taking part in the championship has assisted with the improvement of the Grade 12 pass rate as the programme empowers inmates to read with understanding and analyze as compared to reading for pleasure. The number of offenders sitting for grade 12 increased from 114 in 2013 (with a 59 pass rate) to 185 in 2018 (77% pass rate). The Class of 2018, is the fifth cohort to write the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examination that is aligned with the internationally benchmarked National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) curriculum. The number of parolees book clubs increasing is a clear indication that inmates who started reading behind bars continue to read even when placed back into community, thus creating a new venture for social reintegration.
George Municipality is involved for the 5th time this year and library officials are actively involved in the planning committee assisting with the logistics for an event of this magnitude. “ A literate society promotes reading culture, youth skills and entrepreneurial development and above all self-development and sustainability. Events of the calibre of Funda Mzantzi Championship reawaken the importance of a reading culture. We again welcome the collaboration with NLSA and DCS on this worthy project and trust that the combined participation and sharing of abilities will spark the thirst to read more,” said Melvin Naik, Executive Mayor for George.
Last year, 75 book clubs competed at the 09th Fund Mzantsi Championship and we saw the level of participation and competition grow significantly. For the first time last year, a book club for visually impaired people participated in the Competition.