It used to be every Motswana child had an aunt or at the least an honorary grandmother who was a consummate storyteller. At the end of each day's ploughing, after all the chores were done and while supper was bubbling over an open fire, the children would get to hear a story about Kgogomodumo the fire breathing dragon(my personal favourite) or Dimo the Giant. Of course this is no longer the case, there just isn’t enough time “between the job and the homework, and who remembers those stories anyway”. Although there are the lucky few who do get read to by their parents, its fair to assume that a fair number are left to watch Cow and Chicken help their father figure out how their human mother gave birth to them, alternatively there’s always the video games.
The parental assumption is the children are doing all the reading they need to at school. Methinks this is not quite the same thing. When I recently told an old school acquaintance that not only had I re-read and enjoyed Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club (it confused the heck out of us way back when, with it’s sequencing and foreign cultural-ness) but that I thought she should re-read it too our almost friendship came to a sudden end. She doesn’t read ‘Never picked up the habit’ she says. ‘As easy as that?’ I ask. ‘Yep had to do it for school don’t see why I have to do it now, books remind me of Mrs X (English literature teacher) and they give me a headache’. Yeah I’m not sure where to start, its looking like I’m about two decades too late for this one, so I turned to Priyanka Handa of Raising Education Within Africa
(REWA) to see whether in the face of cold firesides and defiant ex-students, her organization is engaging kids in any kind of reading-for-pleasure activities.
Priyanka Handa(PH): REWA aims to be a one-stop educational facility for young people between the ages of 4 - 18 and other young adults. We have started the centre with a focus on 3 areas:
1. Tutoring English and Maths for all school-going aged children, by providing courses through our partner Kip McGrath International.
2. Personal Development Programmes for young adults - to give the youth some direction, focus and confidence
3. We also run several events and workshops during the year focused on child development and education; we have a reading room on site which is free for all REWA registered members to use - children and adults alike.
TJ: Is REWA exclusively a child oriented organisation or do you have programs for adults
PH: Currently we are running programs for children only - we do outside consulting for professional development for adults. We will soon be starting our own adult programmes at the centre too.
TJ: I understand you run a children's reading programme out of Exclusive Books what is the idea behind that, and are parents signing up their children
PH: I have been running book clubs for kids at Exclusive books for over a year now - it has been a tremendous success - in fact we were over subscribed towards the end of last year! We are now running these book clubs out of our own centre on the weekends. The aim is to give children the gift of reading and help them improve with their reading expression, vocab, confidence, reading speed, reading enjoyment etc.
TJ: In March you hosted a World Book Day event, please tell us about that
PH: World Book Day was designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading, and is marked in over 100 countries around the globe.
World Book Day is a partnership of publishers, booksellers and interested parties who work together to promote books and reading for the personal enrichment and enjoyment of all. A main aim of World Book Day in Botswana is to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading by providing them with the opportunity to have a book of their own. We CELEBRATED books on this day with a variety of games, activities and competitions in the form of a picnic at the REWA Education Centre on Saturday March 31st from 11am - 3pm.
Any organization that has the little ones thumbing through Thumbelina has my vote, so for information on Raising Education Within Africa activities please visit www.rewaedu.org or drop into their centre in Maruapula.