For many years the South African Post Office (SAPO) has played an important role in helping to eradicate poverty in the country. According to Nomkhita Mona, Group CEO of SAPO, as the national postal operator for South Africa, the operator has a duty to “invest in the future of the country”. One way it is doing this is through its partnership with non-profit organization Nal’ibali.
Nal’ibali is a national literacy campaign that aims to spark a culture of reading in South Africa. The initiative is built on the logic that a well-established culture of reading can be a real game-changer for education across the country.
“The SA Post Office is primarily in the business of moving goods to the right destination, and we also use this expertise to promote literacy in South Africa,” said Mona.
Nal'ibali produces free original, age-appropriate, contextually-relevant interactive reading materials in the form of newspaper supplements, available in all 11 official languages of South Africa. SAPO transports the reading material to the destination post office, where it is collected by a representative of the reading club, school, or library. A few copies are also left on the counters so that customers can take a copy home. All this is done free of charge.
“As a result of the partnership with the SA Post Office, Nal’ibali has been able to greatly increase the number of reading clubs, schools and libraries they reach, getting more reading materials into children’s hands,” Mona added.
SAPO’s partnership with Nal’ibali was launched in 2016 and, according to Mona, has gradually grown since its inception. Nal’ibali lodges the pre-packaged and addressed reading materials at the Tshwane sorting centre in Pretoria, South Africa. The packages are then sorted and sent to the destination post office.
“The SA Post Office considers the partnership as a corporate social investment programme and does not charge Nal’ibali for this service,” Mona explained. “The relationship has grown to such an extent that now, Nal’ibali has been able to make available 80,000 reading supplements to people that collect them from 406 post office outlets, and 400,000 supplements to reading clubs, schools and preschools.”
Sections of the reading materials produced by Nal’ibali can be also assembled by the children themselves, which helps to make reading even more enjoyable. It is this interactive reading approach that has increased the effectiveness of the Nal’ibali initiative.
“Parents and teachers have reported that Nal’ibali does indeed help children develop their reading skills,” Mona commented. “It gives parents and children an opportunity to spend quality time together. Happy children grow up to be happy, functional adults.”
South Africa’s National Development Plan aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030, and education is one of the key factors that give youth better opportunities. “The one skill all people need to live a better life is literacy,” said Mona.
“Reading gives us access to knowledge and experience gained by others. Literacy is a requirement for all jobs and vocations, and in South Africa – where unemployment is high – it is vital to give young people the skills they need to participate in the economy. They must be confident enough to create work for themselves and not just to rely on employment, and this will happen only if their literacy skills turn them into informed, well-integrated members of society. No economy can continue to exist without a literate population.”
For SAPO, the partnership with Nal’ibali is about more than just literacy. According to Mona, SAPO is proud to be part of a programme that “brings happiness and a brighter future to so many.”
“Nal’ibali means, “here’s a story” in isiXhosa, one of South Africa’s 11 official languages. isiXhosa is the mother language of approximately 8.3 million South Africans. Language and cultural identity are closely intertwined, and we are privileged to be part of a programme that preserves South Africa’s fascinating diversity of cultures. The SA Post Office is not just part of the infrastructure – we are part of society,” Mona concluded.
This article first appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Union Postale.