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A Story Worth Telling

Amandla Kwinana takes a glimpse into the exciting direction the youth is taking as they evolve with the times while retaining the rich culture of oral storytelling.

Growing up in the eighties, it was not unusual for siblings to share stories of Jackal and Wolf as we prepared for sleep. These stories, told in my mother tongue of isiXhosa, instilled in me a passion for stories, reading and eventually writing.

Last year a colleague familiarized me with PUO Educational Products (PUO). The educational material, multilingual flash cards, proved an exciting introduction to my then two-year-old son with their colourful drawings of animals, foods and people. Living in a multilingual society, one cannot escape the need to learn other languages – there is a wealth of knowledge and adventure that awaits one in literature that cannot be found elsewhere.

Nthabi Sibanda co-founded PUO as a result of her frustration at the very limited educational material which could aid her and her husband in raising their children knowing their respective languages and African heritage.

Approved by the Department of Basic Education, the pre-primary/foundation phase targeted PUO story books and educational material are contributing to the preservation of African languages and nurturing literacy among young children. “Stories bring people together to share, enjoy and have fun” shares Sibanda “and this develops a sense of community which is critical for us all”.


Young people have embraced this concept and in addition to a steady rise of exceptional young black authors such as Malaika Wa Azania, Kopano Matlwa and Lidudumalingani Mqombothi, the art of storytelling has been reignited. Hosted monthly at one of Johannesburg’s beloved underground music and jazz venues in the inner city, Bassline sets the mood for Imbawula. Borrowing from the tradition of storytelling around a fire, Imbawula is ‘an initiative designed to nurture storytelling while encouraging literacy’. Veteran writer and editor, Simphiwe Mpye plays host to the live storytelling sessions which see an array of storytellers ranging from musicians, personalities and authors. Attracting an audience of young adults, the Imbawula events are indeed growing a culture of reading and sharing among youth. In addition, all proceeds go to the Quarphix Foundation, a youth development non-profit organisation.


As the youth embrace their past and find a place for it in modern-day society, the preservation of our heritage lies equally in oral tradition and its documentation. Literacy then, plays a role in ensuring access to these stories and knowledge. Moreover, NGO Project Literacy states: “reading and writing are fundamental human rights as they allow adults to take control of their lives through being able to vote, fill in an application, do banking, read instruction manuals and other activities.” It can be deduced then that the earlier children become comfortable with reading and literacy is integrated into life outside of schooling, the more they can participate effectively in society and be better placed to enrich their lives.

Literacy is one of the integral pieces of the puzzle that Kagiso Trust addresses through its whole school development programme, the Beyers Naudé Schools Development Programme which has been implemented in partnership with the Free State Department of Education.

Photo credits
Imbawula Pics: Random Window
PUO pic: PUO for kids Facebook page


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