University of Cape Town (UCT) academic Dr Rethabile Possa-Mogoera has authored the institution’s first online Sesotho book. The story shines a spotlight on teenage pregnancy in South Africa and emphasises the importance of strong family ties during a stressful time.
Dikeledi ha di wele fatshe (loosely translated as “Tears do not fall in vain”) has been published by UCT Libraries and is available on the open-access continental platform, which means it’s accessible to readers outside the campus community. The book is aimed at high-school learners and introduces the concept of teaching and learning an indigenous language using technology.
Speaking to UCT News ahead of the virtual launch on Thursday, 15 April, Dr Possa-Mogoera, the head of UCT’s African Languages and Literatures section in the School of Languages and Literatures, said she hopes her book will raise awareness about teenage pregnancy.
“This publication is long overdue. It’s time for us to be proud of our indigenous languages. Also, the issue of teenage pregnancy is a serious one in our country, and there are not many indigenous language books out there that have been written on it. This publication is a milestone for my department and has opened doors for many generations to come,” she said.
Published as a drama, Dikeledi ha di wele fatshe is a topical read about a very real scenario. It tells the story of a teenage girl Mamello who becomes pregnant in Grade 8. The father of her child, Tatolo, is a matric learner at her school. Tatolo admits to being the baby’s father and he commits to taking responsibility for the child. But his parents deny his involvement.
The dispute between the teenagers’ parents becomes complicated, and it’s later decided that the village king would be best placed to mediate and help them reach a resolution on the matter. The king questions Tatolo in the presence of his father, and again he admits to fathering Mamello’s unborn baby.
“This book seeks to change the status quo where, in most cases, mothers are always supporting their pregnant daughters, while fathers steer clear.”
Despite the fracas between the two families, Mamello’s parents support her completely, and her father plays a key role, ensuring that she attends her clinic appointments to check on the baby’s development.
“This book seeks to change the status quo where, in most cases, mothers are always supporting their pregnant daughters while fathers steer clear. In this case it’s different. The father also takes very good care of his daughter. He is concerned about her well-being and makes sure she is up to date with her clinic visits,” Possa-Mogoera said.
“The idea behind the book is to conscientise learners and educate parents on how best to deal with a situation like this.”
Thanks to the book’s relevance, the national Department of Basic Education has expressed an interest in including it on its reading list.
Commitment to inclusivity
Ujala Satgoor, the executive director of UCT Libraries, said that publishing Possa-Mogoera’s book on UCT’s open-access platform demonstrates both the library and the university’s commitment to inclusivity and decolonising the academic publishing paradigm.
Dikeledi ha di wele fatshe is the first Sesotho book to enter UCT’s open-access publications stable. And since November 2020, Satgoor said, the book has been downloaded 1 078 times. This “speaks loudly” to the value of open-access publishing and to its wide reach.
Meanwhile, in her address at the book launch, the dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Associate Professor Shose Kessi, described the book as a “stellar” contribution to the literary world, and on behalf of her faculty congratulated Possa-Mogoera on her achievement.
“I am certain that the book will be of great benefit. The School of Languages and Literatures is making great strides towards realising the decolonial project. It is always a big occasion for the faculty when a new book is published, and when the book is groundbreaking and forges new paths in a way that [Dikeledi ha di wele fatshe] does it is even more special,” she said.
A proud moment
In a pre-recorded message played at the launch, UCT Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said that the book gives the university many reasons to be proud. Professor Phakeng commended Possa-Mogoera for addressing the delicate subject of teenage pregnancy in a caring, non-judgemental and African way.
“Ultimately, the story is about dealing honestly with unexpected consequences and taking responsibility, building community and helping one another to move forward,” she said.
Phakeng said that the book offers a “healthy balance” and perspective on how families and communities can support young people during a challenging time. It also empowers young readers, provides them with information they need to make decisions about engaging in teenage relationships and presents a cultural landscape where young Africans can feel “at home” while discussing similar issues.
“Dikeledi ha di wele fatshe gives muscle to our institutional commitment to support social justice by making books like this accessible to everyone in Africa who has digital access.”
“Dikeledi ha di wele fatshe gives muscle to our institutional commitment to support social justice by making books like this accessible to everyone in Africa who has digital access,” she said.
“This new book is a contribution to the restoration of the value of African culture and languages and is an important step towards decolonising higher education. This is good, not only for Africans but for the world.”
Earlier this week Possa-Mogoera handed over three printed and signed copies of the book, which will be included in the respective special collections of the vice-chancellor, the library and the School of Languages and Literatures.
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