Reading festival reveals hidden talent

24 March 2009 | Story by Myolisi Gophe

Siseko Mkalipi
Loud and clear: Siseko Mkalipi, a Grade 11 learner from Harry Gwala High School, makes a speech during the Zenex English First Additional Language Programme event.

Learners recited emotive poems and made speeches highlighting the importance of reading as UCT's Schools Development Unit celebrated the Zenex English First Additional Language Programme's Reading Festival on 17 March.

Funded by the Zenex Foundation, this programme was introduced last year to support Grade 10 and 11 teachers at 15 Dinaledi schools in Cape Town and Paarl.

Through the programme, the schools received the textbook, Keys to English, classroom libraries and classroom support. It also trains teachers during holidays and hosts cluster workshops.

Programme manager Achmat Adams said the initiative is significant because although English is a global language and enjoys high status in the world, research indicates that only 8,8% of South Africans speak or use it as their mother tongue. Furthermore, although English is the first language of only one fifth of the population in Western Cape schools, it is one of the main languages of instruction at schools.

"Poor maths and science results could also be attributed to poor English language proficiency," said Adams.


The aim of the Reading Festival is to promote reading and the use of the classroom library. The best learners in five categories from each school were awarded certificates and vouchers. These categories included poetry writing (based on a book from the classroom library collection), speech writing, poster design, book reviews and reading aloud.

"I'm astounded by the high standard of work produced by these learners," said SDU's Marlene Esau.

"This programme has made everyone aware of the hidden talent of learners", added her colleague, Nalini Parsotam.

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