Pretoria – “We are very happy to have the United Nations here with us, it makes us feel appreciated and we grateful for your interest and support,” exclaims the Mr. Harry Rapoo, the Principal of Bachana Mokwena Primary School as he receives a consignment of books from the United Nations in South Africa to mark Nelson Mandela International Day.
Nelson Mandela’s commitment to education and to advancing literacy and a culture of reading was well known. It was thus fitting that one of the UN in South Africa’s programmes for this year’s Nelson Mandela International Day commemoration was a Book Drive coordinated by the UN Communications Group.
An appeal, through e-mail, notices in the UN buildings and through word-of-mouth, was made to all UN staff in Pretoria and Johannesburg to donate any new or used books for both primary and high school learners. A total of 626 books had been received, which translates into almost one book per UN staff member in South Africa.
Using the wide network of educational institutions which the UN Information Centre has worked with through various outreach initiatives, two specific under-resourced schools were identified outside Pretoria which would be the recipients of the books.
Bachana Makwena Primary School is located in Garankuwa, an economically under-resourced part of Pretoria where the majority of the school’s 960 learners are from impoverished backgrounds where books are a luxury. The handover of nearly 300 age-appropriate books to the Principal of the school, Mr. Rapoo was thus greatly appreciated by both the learners and the educators at an Assembly where all were present. UNIC National Information Officer, Sudeshan Reddy delivered a short address as did the UNIC Driver, Scotch Mabena. The UNIC interns, Reneilwe Maluleke and Given Mashaba, then spiritedly addressed the learners in Tswana, the local language. Amid singing and laughter the books were handed over after which UN staff were given a tour of the school, which includes a much-needed and well-maintained food garden which provides nourishment for the learners.
At Vlakfontein Secondary School in Mamelodi, UNIC Librarian Hope Kabamba handed over nearly 400 books to the Principal, staff and senior learners at a ceremony in the school library.
Here too, the UN was thanked for its efforts a fostering a culture of reading and for taking an interest in the work of the school.
It was heartening to observe both the generous response to the Book Drive appeal from UN staff as well as the appreciative response from the deserving schools. Indeed, the spirit of the much-admired global icon was lived as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in his address to a General Assembly meeting to mark the Nelson Mandela International Day, said that “we remember all that Nelson Mandela taught and gave. We pledge to act on his example”.