Matlaleng Martha Setsiba (28) from Mentz Mshongo village outside Turfloop in Limpopo is a proponent of reading in South Africa.
She describes herself as a young, outgoing and enthusiastic community developer who is passionate about early childhood development. She works mainly with children and literacy initiatives.
“I’m the founder of a children’s reading club called Mentz Reading Paradise and a charity initiative called Masechaba Charity Foundation. I’m a Nal’ibali FuNda leader and Activater 2020.”
The Mentz Reading Paradise is a literacy initiative that is aimed at promoting reading for enjoyment and meaning in rural communities through storytelling, reading aloud and purposeful writing. It was founded in 2019 after the realisation that children in the community could not read and those who could read didn’t understand what they were reading.
“It also came to my attention that most families in rural areas cannot afford to buy books for their children unless they are seriously needed at school,” Martha says. “I wanted to create a space that will expose children to different reading and literacy materials, to teach them that books should be their best friends and that they don’t have to read only when they are at school but even at home, for fun, leisure and enjoyment.”
The club accommodates children from 4 to 15 years of age. They meet every Saturday from 10am to 1pm for thrilling storytelling, reading aloud, writing, painting, cutting and drawing sessions.
“We also do outdoor educational activities that are meant to help the kids learn while playing with others and to connect playing and reading as a way of learning.”
Martha considers herself blessed because the parents have welcomed the initiative with both hands. As a project, they also have few young people who showed interest and came to volunteer.
“It is a difficult task to run a library or reading club because we have children of different ages and personalities and without proper infrastructure we fail to separate them according to age. Every institution has its challenges and ours is lack of funding and board members who quit out of the blue, making it difficult for us to comply with rules of social development and as a result, we cannot get funding. We are then forced to source money from our own pockets and keep the ship afloat.”
The centre makes use of story books for kids, board games, crayons, paints, pencils, books, drawing books.
“We accept donations at any given time. What keeps me going is the vision I have which is to have a fully fashioned kid’s library at Mentz. I don’t know how but I believe my vision will push me that far.”
“I would like to conclude by saying, as the youth of this country we have to come up with initiatives that we believe are of greater importance but unfortunately government isn’t prioritising them. I realised that we needed a library in my community and I didn’t go to the government to strike or to complain, instead I used an abandoned one-roomed shack to bring hope and change in my community. If I can do it, you can do it.”
Mentz Reading Paradise can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read about the journey of a seasoned literacy activist here
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