The SLAV/KwaZulu Natal Support Project
In the year 2000 the School Library Association of Victoria began the SLAV/KwaZulu Natal project in an effort to respond to the need for quality library services in the small remote schools of the province of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa.
The connection that created the project was made at the conference of International Association of School Librarianship (IASL) in Malmo, Sweden where a chance meeting bought the group that have run the project together. Mary Manning and Susan La Marca for SLAV, and Sibongile Nzimande and Mariana Du Toit from ELITS in South Africa, made the necessary links that have been built upon and extended by a range of people on both sides of the Indian Ocean to make the project a success.
Four schools were identified to be supported by the project these were Impandwini, Middledale, Jagersdam and Bangani schools referred to by many after this as the ‘Australian’ schools. Each was in a remote rural area of KwaZulu Natal, they were in areas of poverty where illiteracy rates were high. The schools ranged in size and facilities but none had a library, the smaller schools received only $60 each to buy resources during the year our project began. To facilitate the program each school was given a base collection of books and metal cabinets to house their collections in as they grew.
The initial aims of the project were:
- To facilitate access to school library services
- To promote and provide professional development and training
- To endeavour to raise funds to support the objectives of the Educational
Directorate of the Province
Initially the project was to run until 2003 when the international conference for IASL was to be held in South Africa but as each year went by it became obvious that more could be done and the project has been extended a number of times until the decision was made to bring the project to a close in 2010, the year of its tenth anniversary.
During the ten years of its existence the project has achieved a great deal. Beautiful books have been delivered by visitors from SLAV to the area – Mary Manning and Susan La Marca in 2003 and Jennifer Hall in 2007 and a set of encyclopaedias and other reference texts were sent over by boat in 2004. Across the ten years over 10,000 Australia dollars has been raised through raffles, auctions, donations and special efforts. Many will recall the regular fundraisers at the November SLAV conference that became an expected feature. These funds have been used to buy books in South Africa for our ‘Australian schools’ in both English and Zulu and on one occasion writing materials were added to the mix. Recently funds were also used to buy carpet and cushions to create comfortable reading corners in each of the schools.
SLAV also hosted a visit of teacher-librarians and education department members from South Africa to Melbourne where our visitors were able to attend a SLAV conference and visit a range of Melbourne schools. Being able to talk about our profession, share program and facility ideas and spend time together was very useful and enjoyable for all concerned.
This project highlights the generous nature of SLAV members and our ability as an association to work effectively to make a difference of lasting meaning in another country. Whilst our efforts are relatively small they serve as a model for support and interaction that has resulted in meaningful outcomes, lifelong friendships and a bond that I know will be remembered fondly by many.
Mariana Du Toit, Mary Manning and Susan La Marca on behalf of the SLAV / KwaZulu Natal Project 2000 to 2010.