Duncan Guy, editor of the South African Press Association’s (Sapa) education publication, Learn the News, recently finished a bicycle adventure around South Africa, a journey in which he collected stories, raised funds and awareness, and collected material for a series of talks on his experiences.
His book about the journey, titled Bicycle Tour of South Africa, has now been made available by the Shuttleworth Foundation’s literacy project on its mobi site, http://www.yoza.mobi/stories/31/
“It was a really fantastic trip without a dangerous moment, except for the traffic, and I ended seven kilograms lighter. However I managed to put most of them on again over Christmas and New Year!” Guy said afterwards.
The most challenging aspect of the adventure, says Guy, was “getting fit”.
“I started off as unfit as ever after a stressful year. The Gauteng/North West stretch was sheer agony. By the time I was cycling into Port Elizabeth on a rainy day I felt fit enough to enjoy pushing myself. It was a real milestone!” he said.
He said that while he enjoyed many funny moments on the road, such as “Watching an ostrich perform an extraordinary dance for me as I passed it in the Klein Karoo”, the journey had its serious side.
“I hope it [the trip] will draw attention to the fact that Learn the News needs a sponsor. It’s a fantastic product that so many people love to receive. I’d like them to carry on receiving it, free of charge, so that it can reach everyone and not only the rich. I also hope it can help the M4lit project financially,” he explained.
Learn the News is a news service that goes out free of charge, twice a week, on email, and is printed in the Jellybean Journal supplement of the Weekend Argus and in the Challenger supplement of the Mercury newspaper in Durban, every Thursday.
It presents news in English, Afrikaans and isiZulu editions, in language that is easy for primary school children and others to read and understand. While it covers important news events, it leaves out the horror stories typically found in newspapers. Educational worksheets, based on the contents of the newspaper, are provided.
Learn the News aims to encourage reading, spark an interest in current affairs and promote general knowledge. It also extracts educational value from the news, introduces children to the basic principles of journalism, encourages thinking skills, promotes adventure, expands vocabulary, provides research material for projects and helps South Africans to learn one another’s languages.
Every issue carries a request for subscribers to make copies to pass on to South Africans without access to email.
Guy said literacy levels amongst children vary in South Africa, but that it “would appear that they do not get into the habit of reading as quickly as they (read we) used to. It’s important for them to do so because reading is like a key to the door of further knowledge”.
While literacy levels in South Africa might be scary, Guy says his scariest moments on the road were “when fast vehicles passed within a hair’s breadth of me”.
Fortunately, he survived to tell the tales, and spread the word.