AN AMERICAN teacher has donated about 16000 books to schools around East London since 2009.
Joanne Guzzi started thinking of helping underprivileged schools in the area after her first visit to East London and in particular, schools in the area.
“In 2008 I came to learn about the legacy of apartheid when I visited the country. I went back to the US but could not forget what I had seen – the idea of one book in a class of 48 made me want to come and give back,” she said.
Last month the Good Samaritan brought along with her 2600 books for the New Generation Primary School in Egoli Township, as part of the Open Books Open Minds (OBOM) programme.
OBOM trains teachers how to encourage reading and guides them as to the different styles of how to develop a love for reading in children.
Six years ago a South Africa Partners project, Masibumbane Development Organisation was launched and, since then, the book donation has gone through the organisation. One of their programmes is the OBOM.
The school that Guzzi teaches at, John D Runkle School in Massachusetts has a book trading programme, where pupils are able swap books. She said she jumped at the idea of starting a Kids to Kids book drive in 2009 to get pupils from her school to donate books to needy kids in South Africa.
They also raise funds and buy books to be donated in SA.
Guzzi has been to East London regularly since 2008, each time with a new consignment of books for a different needy school to utilise.
She first came to South Africa through the South Africa Partners, an organisation that “works to build capacity and to strengthen the health and education infrastructure within South Africa”.
South Africa Partners seeks to build mutually beneficial partnerships between the United States and South Africa to promote universal access to quality healthcare and education.
Guzzi said: “We donate to a different school every year, rotating between the schools”.
The American teacher said that she went back to Brookline, Massachusetts, every year and informed pupils of the school the books were donated to.
Masibumbane’s Nomfundiso Rafuza says they “deal with education from the cradle to college”.
“We initially started the [book donation] project at AW Barnes, Parkside and Pefferville primary schools but decided to expand it this year and this is why we’re at New Generation. It has been very interesting to see what it does for teachers and learners. It helps teachers and empowers learners.
“The reading project is developing learners through their engagement; they are sharing and engaging more in class now and this is growth. Improving reading for pupils helps them cope later in the education system by laying the foundation now,” Rafuza said.
A mentor/coach of the Open Book Open Mind programme, Ruth Dela Rosa, said that teachers really appreciated their work. “We don’t just give workshops to teachers but also do follow-ups afterwards – and they love this,” Dela Rosa said.
New Generation teacher Kathy Theron said the project was “really encouraging co-operative learning”.
“It improves critical thinking and we love the interaction with the learners,” said the Grade 6 teacher who has been on OBOM training.
School principal Cecil Peters was very thankful for the donation and OBOM.
“It works like a bomb, OBOM. Teachers say that [English] second language learners talk more in class now and are not shy of how they speak anymore. I would like to thank all involved for bringing this programme to our school,” Peters said.