There are currently two SERI Libraries. They are currently based in two Schools...
The COSAT Library
In the early days of COSAT, the school made use of the Good Hope College Library. It was completely unsuitable – full of musty, dog-eared, old-fashioned and completely age-inappropriate works of fiction, as well as an endless supply of outdated school textbooks, many in Afrikaans, left over from the building’s previous life as a teachers training college. The stock was singularly unappealing to the COSAT youngsters and the librarian was perennially grumpy, but for a long time there was nothing that could be done. Money was tight and that was the end of it!
In 2007, the situation changed. Dr and Mrs Charles Johnson, from San Francisco, generously donated $5000 to the school, which translated into the princely sum of R40000, more than enough to start a library. So on 31 May 2007, the COSAT library opened in a converted storeroom, with ± 1300 books. From the word go, the library was a resounding success. Once-per-cycle library periods were introduced [and persist to this day] and even the most reluctant readers were gently coerced into the joys of reading. The library grew and grew, until it was bursting at the seams.
Just in time, from the library’s point of view, came the announcement that COSAT was moving into brand-new school buildings. There was a flurry of activity as new stock had to be found that would be appropriate for the very first group of COSAT Grade 8s and also that would be worthy of its new, smart home. But, even though the space has more than quadrupled in size, we are still bursting at the seams. The idea of tables and chairs where learners can work, and perhaps the odd sofa and comfy chair to loll in and relax with a good book remain but pipe dreams that we wish could be realised.
But there are a great many positives. We have adequate shelving for our almost 8000 books, we have a wonderful selection of non-fiction works for the first time and, best of all, and we have acquired fifteen laptops to be used in the library for research and for career-related investigation. [The laptops are loaded with PACE.] We can also boast of a data projector and screen and... wait for it... TWO dvd’s “Holes” [the Grade 10 set work] and “To Kill a Mockingbird” [the grade 12 set work]!
A storeroom adjoining the library has been stripped of its shelves and has been fitted with a single wide shelf at table height on three walls and this serves as a very long desk. A huge whiteboard fills the longest wall space. This room is the new SERI office. When Peter Oxenham, our SERI manager, passed away in April, we had to move the entire SERI operation from his home-based office in Kalk Bay to the school premises. The new SERI office provides workspace for Andiswa Zothe [the SERI administrator] and Thulani Tafeni, a fulltime employee of SERI who is doing some teaching for COSAT. Thulani’s sister, Nikiwe, has also joined the SERI staff. Her role is to help run the library. Mrs George has taken over Peter’s role of the SERI manager and sadly cannot devote all her time to the library.
The Sakumlandela Library
What a success story! Sakumlandela Combined School in Site B is an oasis in the desert of township primary school education. There are two easy ways to spot a well-functioning school. Ask yourself just one question, “Are there kids milling around the premises when they should be in class?” If the answer is NO, then take a look at the garden. If it is cared-for, with a lot of planting, you can be sure that this is a well-run school. Sakumlandela is the only township school that I have come across with a manicured rose garden, AND it has a worm farm to fertilize the vegetable garden. It also has a great library that is the heart of the school. The potential was always there, even before SERI became involved and there were very few books. That was because the WILL was there to make the very best of an unsatisfactory situation.
Sakumlandela has become a COSAT feeder school. There is a Fun’ulwazi Saturday School programme in place at the school and SERI has helped turn the library into something really special. The Hangklip event of 2009 brought in a welcome injection of cash, which translated into nearly two thousand books, which nicely supplemented the initial stock. They were all processed and covered in record time and the library, amid great fanfare, had its official opening in November 2009.
One can only say that the Sakumlandela library BUZZES. Kids are in there at every opportunity. Each class has a library period once a cycle. The ˜buddy reading programme is running like clockwork and a reading club has been started one afternoon a week. SERI funds a full-time library assistant for Sakumlandela and it is her job to see that the reading programmes run smoothly.
A similar intervention was attempted at Sivile Combined School, the original idea being to establish a feeder school in each area of Khayelitsha. The Sivile programme was a dismal failure and SERI finally decided to pull the plug on its work there at the beginning of 2011. The problem? Poor leadership. It was a tragedy watching the school become more and more dysfunctional.
On the other hand, I am sure that SERI’s relationship with Sakumlandela will endure for many years to come!