The Funda Mzantsi Championship turns 13 this year and it is being held for the 10th year in George with 11 books being read in all 11 official languages. The focus this year is on indigenous language enhancement and South African authors.
Executive Deputy Mayor of George, Raybin Figland officially welcomed all the dignitaries, participants, sponsors and guests to the event at the Eden Community Church, Kraaibosch George. Figland said South Africa unfortunately has one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the world, but the turnaround starts with initiatives such as this championship. He said Funda Mzantsi makes a difference in the lives of so many people and he is proud that George is the host city of such a prestigious event.
The event takes place from 2 – 6 October at Eden Community Church and part of the championships are also being held in Conville and Thembalethu this year. This is a collaboration between the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), National Library of South Africa and George Municipality. This year, participants had a choice of 11 books, one in each official language, to read from. A total of 299 inmates representing all nine provinces, book clubs from Universities, public schools and the community are participating in the championship.
According to Rachel Williams, Manager: George Libraries, the main involvement in Funda Mzantsi is to develop creative minds and to foster a love and respect for other human beings and cultures. George Municipality assists with the logistics in George especially with venue allocations for school learners and visitors. “We market and showcase George’s tourism activities and attractions during the visitors stay. George libraries aim is also to foster literacy, language development, cultural awareness and inclusivity of blind readers by means of literacy and books also in braille and daisy players. The libraries are a safe and harmonious environment where youngsters and the rest of the community can indulge in recreational reading processes,” Williams said.
Delekile Klaas, Regional Commissioner of the Western Cape Department of Correctional Services, said in his keynote address they might call the event a championship but everybody participating are already winners just because they are reading and enhancing their quality of life and promoting the culture of reading in communities. Klaas said offenders need to read to redeem themselves, use reading to correct themselves and phase themselves into society again. He told the audience one of the many success stories of Funda Mzantsi is that of a youngster that was in a prison in Mossel Bay. He got involved with Funda Mzantsi and fell in love with reading. He was moved to another prison and did his matric. He is currently busy with a qualification in IT at Nelson Mandela University.
Klaas said offenders who take part in Funda Mzantsi have such a mind shift, they as Correctional Services do not see them back in prison as repeat offenders. This is the positive effect reading has on society and on human beings. He challenged the police, the George Municipality, other municipalities and other stakeholders to start book clubs in their organisations.
Marcus Maphile of the National Library of South Africa said findings of government’s literacy studies are deeply concerning about literacy in South Africa. Studies confirmed 87% of South Africans have some sort of a book, mostly the bible or magazines, newspapers or dictionaries but 3 out of 5 people still don’t have any fiction or non-fiction book at home. “It’s time that our homes become libraries. It’s time we buy our kids’ books and not just smart phones. We also need to read so our children can copy or follow our example,” he said.