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Empowering our youth by promoting literacy

Renault South Africa donates a new library and resource centre to the Mangwele Combined School in Soweto

JOHANNESBURG, 06 July 2023: Renault South Africa, in partnership with the Motus Imperial Trust, has donated a brand new library and resource centre to the Mangwele Combined School in Diepkloof, Soweto. The library, like two similar facilities donated earlier this year, is intended to promote literacy and a love of learning right from the primary stage of education.

The library donations by Renault, have been specially designed for use in junior schools located in underprivileged areas. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate and empower our youth than by supporting them in their literacy journey from the very start.” says Shumani Tshifularo, Renault South Africa’s CEO.

And the need for this could not be more urgent.

The results of the most recent Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), just published, show that 81% of South Africa’s Grade 4 children could not read for meaning in any language when the survey was conducted in 2021, almost the same proportion as in 2011. More than 12 000 learners from 321 schools participated in the 2021 round of PIRLS, which is conducted every five years and, of the 57 countries and regions that participated, South Africa performed the worst.

While reading performance had undoubtedly been affected by the pandemic, with the national reading comprehension score having dropped from 78% in the 2017 survey, the problem has deep roots. Statistics published by the Western Cape Government in 2022 show that nearly 60% of households do not own a book for leisure reading and that only 14% of the population reads for pleasure. More notably, only 5% of adults read to their children.

“This means most children just don’t have an early exposure to books,” says Tshifularo, “which not only impacts their ability to comprehend the written word but compromises their cognitive and critical thinking skills in general. As the world around us becomes more digital, reading and these skills are critical as the gateway to full participation in the digital economy is literacy”.

“This is why we’ve partnered with the Motus Imperial Trust, which has established 64 libraries in schools since 2003, to bring this library to Mangwele. Our dearest hope is that it’ll open the doors of learning for children at this school from an early age,”

Mangwele is a public primary school with 515 learners from Grade R to Grade 7. While the school is well managed by the Principal, Mr Magau, and his dedicated staff, it did not have the funding for a library. Renault South Africa wanted to change that and stepped up with the funding needed to build a library and resource facility. The welcoming room is stocked with over 8 000 titles, all covered in clear plastic to protect them and provide many years of happy reading.

The bright yellow décor, which echoes Renault’s corporate colour, also makes this a fun and inviting environment for the learners, who are aged between five and twelve. And the funding provided by the company allows for a dedicated librarian for a period of 5 years, to assist them and oversee library management.

The first of the three libraries funded by Renault was handed over to the Ntethelelo Foundation in Alexandra on 26 January. Ntethelelo provides a safe haven for after-hours learning for girls from Grade R to Grade 6.  Founded in 2017, the Foundation uses applied drama techniques and various art methodologies to elicit dialogue about violence against women and girls and to promote meaningful social change.

The second library was handed over at the Sivuleleni Primary School in Soweto on 31 January and was an immediate hit with the kids.

“It was heartening to see the joy they took in looking through the books,” says Tshifularo, “especially as we know that reading for pleasure not only improves educational outcomes but enhances personal development as well.”

This is backed up by a study into the research evidence on the benefits of reading for pleasure conducted by the UK government in 2021. Among other things, it showed that reading enjoyment is more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status (OECD, 2002). In short, there are few better ways to promote real transformation than helping children to develop a love for reading.

“At Renault, we have a strong commitment to social change,” says Tshifularo “which is why we focus specifically on education in our corporate social investment programme. By enhancing learning environments, we aim to contribute to the delivery of quality universal education; education that will provide meaningful access to society and the workplace for every child.

“The books in the new library are appropriate to all curriculum phases and we hope they’ll provide many hours of reading pleasure for the learners at Mangwele .”


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