On the occasion of his 92nd birthday, it is my humble and joyful privilege to send the warm greetings and congratulations of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa to our former President, Mr Nelson Mandela.
I am particularly delighted that this year the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Institute and Equal Education are together highlighting the need to promote reading – and especially through the resourcing of school libraries – as a fitting way of marking Madiba’s birthday. There can be no doubt over the importance of reading in his life, at the heart of the education that allowed him to become first a successful lawyer, and later a nation-changing leader and visionary world statesman, whose profound wisdom inspires us all.
Yet today, according to the National Education Infrastructure Management Systems, only 8% of South Africa’s public schools have stocked libraries. Yet children from schools with fully stocked, fully staffed, libraries do significantly better than those who have none. Especially in the first few years of schooling, our learners need to be reading regularly, and come to know the joys of reading for pleasure. School libraries are not a luxury – they are a necessity.
As a patron of Equal Education, I cannot recommend this initiative highly enough. This is something in which we can all become involved as part of our celebration of Mandela Day on 18 July. We can use our 67 minutes to read to someone who cannot read for themselves, perhaps a small child, or an old person. Many of us can also give a book to a child, or to a school, or make a donation that will enable the purchase of suitable volumes.
I commend the Government on their positive involvement with the campaign for school libraries. I challenge local communities, civil society and business, to join hands with government, and throw their weight behind this initiative. In particular, I ask our Parishes to do what they can – encouraging parishioners to bring suitable books to church, so that they can be passed on to schools in their area.
Let us show our love and respect for Madiba on his birthday, by making the effort to ensure that access to a fully stocked, working, school library becomes a school libraries become a reality for all children.