By THABISILE KHOMO
Pupils from Windy Heights Primary School joined scores of excited learners from different parts of Ugu district who braved inclement weather and packed Scottburgh Town Hall in the south coast of KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday.
They celebrated a milestone recently reached by a renowned storyteller and author, Dr Gcina Mhlophe of the children’s literacy programmes’ fame.
Dr Mhlophe’s popular literacy programme known as Nozincwadi, the mother of books, her effort of bettering children’s literacy and reviving the decaying culture of reading, celebrated it’s 20 years of existence.
Showcasing their talents and expressing gratitude to Dr Mhlophe, learners took turns singing songs, reciting poems and performing stage plays.
“Being a school that shares similar visions with Dr Mhlophe, we saw it necessary that we celebrate this huge achievement with her. She has frequented our school over the past years, assisting us with some projects. Her passion for children’s education is amazing. It’s always beneficial to our learners to be part of her programmes,” said an educator from Windy Heights.
Kicking off her event and setting the vibrant mood before she commenced with her speech, Dr Mhlophe who’s also the founder and director of Gcinamasiko Arts and Heritage Trust wholeheartedly sang a well known Sunday school song titled ‘Singabantwanyana’.
She told guests that when she started her Nozincwadi two decades ago, she thought 20 years was a very long time.
“I feel so honoured today that I see you here. This milestone means a lot to me. Over the past years, I have taken this programme to many different parts of the country.
“Despite language differences, residents everywhere gave me a lot of love and support. I was so grateful. We are in a mission of promoting African languages. Without these languages, we are nothing,” she said.
She emphasized the importance of reading and expressed gratitude to the guest for showing up at her event, especially children whom she said were much closer to her heart.
“I commend the teachers for all their hard work, teaching our children to read in schools. Their hard work doesn’t go unnoticed,” she said.
Dr Mhlophe also gave budding writers, including the famous comedian Simphiwe Shembe, an opportunity to showcase their debut offerings.
Grabbing an opportunity and gracing the stage, Shembe spiced things up with a couple of jokes that left guests’ tummies in stitches.
He then spoke highly of Dr Mhlophe, citing that he’s among many other kids from African communities who grew up listening to her radio stories.
“I always knew that an initiative as good as Dr Mhlophe’s was going to reach the milestone we are celebrating today. We know it hasn’t been easy but she persisted and kept going. There are so many other initiatives that people start and fail to make success out of them but Dr Mhlophe stood against all storms. I’ve never seen someone as passionate about kids and their literacy as Dr Mhlophe,” he said.
He then gave an insight into the content of his new book titled ‘Lizwi Zulu Quotes’, with which he said he intends to break communication barriers between parents and their children.
Other dignitaries that also shared the podium at the event included the likes of renowned authors Dr Baxolile Dimane, former SABC one telenovela Uzalo actress and storyteller Mpumi Ndlovu-Mzelemu, officials from Phansi Museum, Bridget McNulty from Sweet Life organisation, Department of Education, principals, teachers and board members from Gcinamasiko Arts and Heritage Trust.
Teachers who were present included Lungelo Gumede from Umsinsini Primary School who got a golden opportunity to launch her newly published poem’s book titled ‘Corona: My feelings’.
Impressed by Windy Heights’ constant participation in literacy programmes, one of the board members from Gcinamasiko Arts and Heritage Trust Sizwe Mbhele said: “I think it’s high time we negotiated with the Provincial Department of Education that Windy Heights must be placed under Ugu district.
We are a district with good academic reputation and I like the passion for literacy portrayed by Windy Heights.”
Dr Mhlophe’s event was intentionally coincided with World Book Day.
A series of her anniversary celebrations are set to be wrapped up with a huge storytelling event in Bluff, south of Durban on Saturday.