To learn to read is to light a fire – this was one of the key messages as St Paul’s Primary School in Bo-Kaap opened its brand-new library on International Literacy Day, on Thursday September 8.
The library comes as a result of the school’s partnership with Bishops Preparatory School, the Bishops Parents’ Association and The Bookery, an NPO in Plein Street.
Principal of St Paul’s Primary School, Yeye Mgudlwa, said that a library at the school was much needed.
She thanked Bishops for the partnership. “We thank you very much for what you have done for us and you have made us proud. Our pupils at St Paul’s come from poor communities where there are no libraries. You have made a difference to these pupils and brought smiles to their faces. You have nourished their future in the most amazing way.”
Ms Mgudlwa said as a result of the partnership between the schools and sharing of expertise among staff, the school’s results had improved from a 52 percent to 76 percent pass rate.
“At that time we didn’t have a library so now I can imagine what is going to happen. This project is not going to end here. I can’t wait for the next parents’ meeting so that they can see that things are happening here. We are dealing with the pupils of the working class. Their parents are the domestic workers but you have made a big difference. Reading can take our pupils places.”
Greg Brown, headmaster at Bishops Preparatory School, said the partnership with St Paul’s Primary had been ongoing since 2010. “We decided that this was a school that we could have a wonderful symmetry with. The principal here is very dynamic and from the beginning we really wanted to do things with St Paul’s that was sustainable, things that had the potential to make a real difference in children’s lives.”
Mr Brown said the Bishops Parents’ Association also assists St Paul’s with a breakfast feeding programme but the focus was always on books and establishing a library.
Mr Brown said the parents’ association had driven the project and that another organisation which had played a part in the success of the library was The Bookery. “It was our turning point because with them we discovered a whole model and a way to do it. We worked very closely with them and followed their blueprint.”
He said The Bookery had sourced 4 000 books for the school’s library. “I know we moan that government doesn’t do enough but this is an example of what civil society does and the power of ordinary people to make a plan come together. For us the most powerful thing to do is to add a facet to literacy. This is not the end but the beginning of a long process,” said Mr Brown.
Claire Biesman-Simons, head of library support at The Bookery, said they were excited to celebrate the opening of the new library and the partnership. “It’s been the most amazing growth in this partnership. There are not many libraries I’ve seen established with this passion and dedication from partners. Bring your children into the library and make sure that every teacher has their library periods. Seldom am I so excited about the establishment of a library and it will grow into an incredible place.”
Samantha Petersen, chairperson for the Bishops Parents’ Association, said the project has been six months in the making.
“We spoke to St Paul’s about what their current needs were and what we needed to do to assist. One of the needs was a library that could accommodate all the kids.”
She said that project wouldn’t have happened without the parents, past parents and The Bookery. “It has culminated into a wonderful gift,” said Ms Petersen.
She said she loved that she could instil a love of reading in her son who is at Bishops. “The greatest gift you can give to a young child is to open up the door to the world of reading and all that it offers.”
Ms Petersen said as a parents’ association they thought it was important to partner with a school such as St Paul’s Primary. “We live in a privileged world where we can walk into a book store and buy our kid any book off the shelf. It was important for us to see where we can assist a disadvantaged community.”
Ms Petersen said they hoped to continue the partnership with St Paul’s Primary.