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Mandela container libraries on track

A library container initiative between the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory and Breadline Africa, a Cape Town based NGO, will kick start the year with the opening of a container library at Linge Junior Secondary School in Nyanga on 30 January 2013. This is the first of 15 container libraries being planned for the year.

The initiative, which was launched three years ago on Nelson Mandela Day, has seen the roll-out of 23 libraries to primary schools across the country. More than 18 000 children have been reached as a result of the partnership. A pilot monitoring and evaluation assessment is currently being led by Breadline Africa to assess the impact of the container libraries at the schools, of which most of them are located in very remote, impoverished areas. The initiative has garnered the support of government, corporates, NGOs and individuals from all over the world.

Literacy and access to education is a human right,” Director of Breadline Africa, Tim Smith said of the initiative. “Every school should have a library and every child should be able to read, write and be given the means to learn; sadly this is not the case in many schools across the country. The library container initiative needs the support of government, the general public and corporates. We encourage everyone to get involved and help in some way.”

Breadline Africa is one of the biggest suppliers of converted containers for poverty relief in Southern Africa, the Cape Town based charity has provided over 175 containers to poverty stricken communities since their establishment in 1993. The NGO specialises in renovating disused shipping containers and recycling them for essential community purposes. Each container library costs on average R150 000 to refurbish.

“We buy sturdy, water-tight containers at a low cost and transform them into mobile structures. Our projects try to establish a level of self-sustainability within the community,” Smith said.

Despite the challenges of accessing books, which can be costly, publishing agencies and companies have come through to help with the book collection, sorting and distribution. AVUSA, Room to Read, Biblionef, Puo, Pan Macmillan, the Bookery, Help2Read, Pick n Pay, the Korean Embassy, SAA and ATNS, to name a few, ensured the libraries were filled with books. Macmillan Teacher Campus provided librarian training in 2012 and a second training module has been scheduled for later this year.

“The success of the initiative relies entirely on the support of the general public and corporates,” Smith said. “In the words of Tata Mandela ‘readers become leaders’ – this is the very ethos of the container initiative.”

Corporates to come on-board in support of the partnership include the likes of Grandmark International, JP Morgan Chase, LegalWise, Tata Steel, Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard and Macquarie. As part of last year’s Madiba birthday celebrations, Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, visited Vuyani Primary School in Gugulethu to assist with the handover of a container library.

The container library handover at Linge Junior Secondary was attended by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory project manager for Mandela Day, Frank Meintjies, as well as representatives from Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard.

For more information and to get involved in the library container initiative email or call 021 418 0322.


Distributed by Be-cause Integrated Communications

Beverley Houston

021 462 1723 / 082 824 8617


On behalf of Breadline Africa

Director: Tim Smith

Project Manager: Puleng Phooko

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