KZN revives reading culture among youth

Thursday, March 31, 2011
By: 
Kemantha Govender

Durban - To get the youth of KwaZulu-Natal to take a more keen interest in reading, the province is introducing new literacy initiatives to stimulate a love of the written word.

MEC for Arts, Culture, Sport and Recreation, Weziwe Thusi, revealed this as she presented her department's budget on Thursday.

"Young people are becoming non-readers and there is a need to create alternative options and ways of spending their leisure time that are constructive, sociable, competitive and fun," said Thusi.

The department intends rolling out the Gaming and Wii @ Your Library project. A pilot will be run in 20 libraries, targeting those in previously disadvantaged communities.

This 21st century programme is intended to attract non-readers to libraries by using 21st century gadgets that are most loved by the youth. In addition, the youth will get a range of tools and skills (technological, interpersonal, communication), which will ultimately give them the edge to effectively participate in the workforce some day.

The programme includes print, visual, media, ICT, multimodal, science, technology and many other types of literacy.

"It will serve as a draw-card to non-readers for computer games such as Nintendo - play stations, group game playing on a social and competitive format like Wii Sports," said Thusi.

Meanwhile, more libraries, museums and community art centres will be built or revamped in the province this year.

Free internet access cafes in rural libraries will receive 10 additional units to help communities become tech-savvy and empowered. Around R364 million has been allocated to meet these goals.

Museums will be built in Mpofana and Nkandla, while upgrades in Umtshezi, Okhahlambha and Dannhauser.

"Over R5.5 million will be spent over the MTEF, with an additional R13 million on a total of eight museums province wide," said Thusi.

The department bought four more mobile library trucks to add to the mobile library project. These will become fully operational by April/May 2011.

Each truck will be placed in a region, aimed at reaching out to deep rural areas. People will be provided with internet access on the mobile library LAN, educational toys and a photocopying service.

"The purpose of the community libraries - with a conditional grant of R45 million in the 2011/12 budget - is to enable communities to gain access to knowledge and information that will improve their social, economic and political situation," added Thusi.

To improve the quality of basic education, 229 libraries will receive 138 000 new book items and learning material to benefit both school-going learners and university students.

Just over R18 million has been set aside to support the growth of the creative industry by using artists and cultural institutions.

The programme is aimed at creating a platform for young people to access creative alternatives for quality and meaningful after school opportunities.

The department will address social issues including, high crime levels, women and child abuse, teenage pregnancy, and the spread of HIV and Aids by using intercultural and intergenerational dialogues.

"The observation that most people seem to be agreeing on as the main cause for this dilemma is the gap between young and old in our society is widening. The old people have distanced themselves from the children. The children find themselves learning things from wrong sources because there is a lack of proper nurturing either from home or the society," said Thusi.

Learners will be required to participate in dialogues and symposia where selected topics around traditional values and norms, unity and diversity, gender and xenophobia.

The project will be rolled out for school going learners in uMzinyathi, Pinetown, Ugu and uThungulu.