Within five months of Athwood Primary School in Hanover Park opening its library, staff already noticed the positive changes among the pupils.
On Thursday May 23, former resident Mark Russouw donated 100 books to the school’s library, to enhance the work already being done there.
Principal Evan Petersen said the library opened in December last year, and is housed in a container on its premises.
The school employs a full-time librarian, Christine Adams, and it was Ms Adams who reached out to Mr Russouw for assistance.
She offers the pupils incentives such as sweets, which she buys from her own pocket, to encourage them to read more, and asked Mr Russouw if he could assist.
“I grew up in Hanover Park and my heart is still here. When Ms Adams contacted me, I did not hesitate to help. I serve on the Cape Flats Development Association (Cafda) board, and bought the 100 books, in English and Afrikaans, from them,” Mr Russouw said.
Mr Petersen said the school was in a volatile area, and most of the children lived in extreme poverty.
“The idea behind the library is to let them know that there is so much more out there. The books transport them to different places.
“There was a great need for a library for our pupils. Our children cannot do sport, because the harsh reality is that it is too dangerous for them. We have a big sports field that we cannot utilise unfortunately, so the alternative is to get them into the library and to read more. We want to get them out of the mindset of idealising gang life,” said Mr Petersen.
Most of the 650 pupils at the school are from areas outside Hanover Park. Some of them are from children’s homes, Mr Petersen said. The school also runs a feeding scheme.
Said Mr Petersen: “We are one of a few schools which employs a full-time librarian. However, Ms Adams does more than just hand out books. Our ultimate goal is to get our literacy and numeracy levels up. We do have other organisations helping us with reading programmes at the school, and every bit helps.”
Teacher Lynette Davids, from Heideveld Primary School, heeded Ms Adams’ call for assistance with incentives.
Said Ms Adams: “To them, it does not matter what they get, as long as they get an incentive. They even get excited about receiving a fruit or even a star sticker.”
The library’s presence has contributed to the excitement at the school, and sometimes, Ms Adams said, she also served as a guidance teacher, a counsellor, or a motivational speaker.