Address by the Premier of the Northern Cape province, Ms Hazel Jenkins, on the occasion of the opening of Ntsikelelo Tida Library, Richmond
28 May 2010
It is both a singular honour and privilege for me to celebrate with you the joy and pride on the official opening of the Ntsikelelo Tida Library. This event is a momentous occasion for the community of Richmond where the first amalgamation of schools took place in the Northern Cape more than ten years ago amidst fierce tension.
This contemporary facility marks a milestone and an achievement which the community can now benefit from with regard to information and knowledge services that, comparatively speaking, is of such a standard that it is similar to the best in the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, at this point it is apt to note that this wonderful facility was named in memory of Comrade Ntsikelelo Tida, a true cadre and activist of our beloved movement, the African National Congress (ANC). Comrade Tida hailed from this very town of Richmond. He was a son of Richmond, who served the ANC with loyalty and dedication as a youth league member and election coordinator during our first historic elections in 1994. Comrade Tida passed away tragically in a car accident in 2002 and his father is present here this morning.
Ladies and gentlemen, kindly join me in acknowledging his presence with a warm round of applause, Sir, thank you for the gift of your wonderful son to this province and country.
A library is such an important resource for learning, especially for a community that had been deprived of all the necessary services. It is often said that the “library is the heart of a society”, I consider it more accurately portrayed as “the brain”. It is the memory. It is the trajectory that illuminates the mind. In short a library is indispensible to the intellectual growth of a community, especially our children.
Since one can never have too much knowledge, learning is a continuing process throughout life and libraries provide the tools to enlighten the mind. The ideal library caters for all ages and a variety of patrons, from those who are just making a quick stop to check out material to those spending hours utilising all that a library has to offer. This library is precisely designed to cater for a wide range of users
Programme director, as we are striving to build a developmental state with positive values, it is important for us to create a learning nation.
A learning nation is a winning nation and reflecting on our past, we are winners and true champions of democracy. This official opening of the Ntsikelelo Tida Library bears testimony to the fact that, as a united nation, we are reaping the rewards of democracy under the custodianship of the ANC led government. In spite of all the challenges we face, the political will of the ANC is constant in its genuine endeavour to uplift the quality of life of all our people, a nation that love to read and write and that should have easy access to information to improve the quality of their lives.
As part of a common national effort, the Department of Arts and Culture will do its part to create access to a rich and productive cultural life for our youth and all our people. As part of our efforts to bring the arts to all our people, we shall continue to ensure that community libraries are built throughout our beloved province.
We are encouraged and pleased by the efforts by the Department of Arts and Culture to coordinate the implementation of the community libraries recapitalisation programme in partnership with provincial governments.
The fact that they will partner with the National Library services to support the formation of book clubs at all community libraries to encourage a culture of reading, is to be commended.
Ladies and gentlemen, a recent study that was conducted to test the literacy ability of our children has shown that South Africa's children cannot read. The study further indicated that almost 80 percent of South African pupils do not develop basic reading skills by the time they reach grade five.
The progress in international reading literacy study was conducted in 40 countries and carried out locally by the University of Pretoria's centre for evaluation and assessment.
It showed that South African pupils achieved the lowest score compared with children in the other 39 countries.
Only two percent of South African grade-five learners reached the highest international benchmark compared with seven percent internationally. The Russian Federation, Hong Kong, Singapore and Italy were among the countries whose pupils obtained the highest scores.
Almost 80 percent of South African pupils in grade four and five did not reach the lowest international benchmark, in contrast to only six percent in the rest of the countries tested.
While almost half of the children tested in English and Afrikaans attained the lowest benchmark, between 86 percent and 96 percent of children writing in the other nine official languages did not manage to attain even the low benchmark.
The study represents the first baseline study of reading literacy in South African primary schools, across all 11 languages.
South Africa had the largest number of pupils taking part in the study, with 16 073 children in grade four and 14 657 in grade six being tested.
The study further showed that early literacy activities at home are important. Good pre-literacy skills that are developed before school are related to higher achievement.
South Africa is behind in introducing more complex reading skills, whereas internationally the more complex skills are introduced earlier. Where more advanced skills are introduced in grade one, achievement is higher.
Few children are exposed to early reading-literacy activities with their families and less than half have books in the home. Also, 60 percent of South African primary schools do not have a library or classroom libraries.
The study also shows that parents' levels of education are strongly related to reading achievement.
Programme director it is hoped that, through this modern facility, we will cultivate and inspire a new culture of reading and writing and expand the horizon of the community and our children beyond the ordinary. We would expect that out of this community shall emerge leading figures in science and engineering, professors, astronauts, pilots and perhaps premiers!
As soon as one steps into a library, a world of information is available at your finger tips. Whether it is a school or community library, it is the most valuable resource for knowledge and education.
For me the library is at the heart of any society and particularly a developing nation. Here we have assembled the wisdom of the past, the achievements of the present and our aspirations for the future. This library is surely a practical demonstration of democracy’s faith in acquiring knowledge, not as an end in itself, but as part of a continuous and life-long process of learning.
Ladies and gentlemen, a library enshrines the achievements of our common humanity and continually renews and refreshes the mind and spirit by the provision of books for pleasure and relaxation, as well as for learning.
And here we have a library designed to be welcoming to all who enter, a user-friendly building which provides for the community not only the most modern equipment for the access of knowledge, but the comfort and convenience of well-designed facility, that encourages learning and relaxation.
Its architecture, designed as a modern beacon, was conceived to create a profound, safe and welcoming space for the children and the community. It was built to serve, and to re-connect them with society.
This library is beautiful and special, but it is much more than a building filled with shelves of books. For the young people who will find their way here, these books will allow them to dream and envision a better future.
Programme director, a library is a place where we can move away from the noise of our demanding lives and study in quietude, peace and comfort.
The printed book is essential to our understanding of ourselves and our heritage, and to the heritage which we in turn shall bequeath to future generations.
It is not too much to say that civilisation itself rests on the book, that fragile but resilient artefact whose frail pages have borne down the centuries the weight of the human heart.
And in celebrating books we celebrate libraries, the place where they find their natural home and where they are loved, revered, cared for and used with the highest respect and delight.
The Richmond community and surrounding areas are now fortunate enough to have what must be one of the most modern and technically best-equipped libraries in the province. The fact that it is situated next to the primary school should serve to inspire our children about the value of reading. It also serves as a vital link between all the different residential areas. It should encourage and motivate our children and the community to acquire much needed knowledge.
Ladies and gentlemen, despite all the technical advances which enable scientific knowledge to be collected, classified or disseminated by electronic means, the library remains what the derivation of the word suggests: A place set apart to contain books for reading, study or reference’. I have loved books since early childhood.
Even to take one down from the shelf is for me an anticipation of joy. The reason for this library to be digitally operated will form a direct link between new technology, and how technology can be infused with our books to take reading to a higher level.
It will be a tragic day for mankind if books, like so many old churches, become objects of interest only to antiquarians or those with eccentric tastes.
While fostering reading, literacy is an obvious objective of a library. The Ntsikelelo Tida Library must actively impart cultural and information literacy as well. Libraries link the past, present and future and our wonderful buildings will be a refuge where the community can connect with their cultural past and the community around them, and cultivate skills and hope for the future. It is with the greatest pleasure that I now formally declare open this new library.
Source: Northern Cape Provincial Government
Issued by: Northern Cape Office of the Premier
28 May 2010
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