FunDza’s ‘Rights’ story project is celebrating 20 years of democracy by offering readers a chance to reflect on the work that must still be done to build a fair, just and equitable South Africa. The ‘Rights’ story project is focused on the rights enshrined in South Africa’s Bill of Rights. In the last week of each month of 2014, FunDza will run a fictional short story that highlights one of the ‘rights’ and publish this on its mobi network.
FunDza works towards a vision of an educated, engaged and empowered citizenry. Its focus is on improving the literacy levels and ultimately the academic performance of young people, specifically youth aged 13 to 25 years from under-resourced communities. It does this by creating and disseminating local, exciting stories that get young people wanting to read.
One of the ways in which FunDza is growing a community of readers is through leveraging the reach of cellphones. Almost everyone in South Africa has access to a cellphone and yet only 8% of schools have libraries. FunDza has created a ‘library on a phone’ and currently reaches around 50 000 unique readers each month, with an average visit duration of 14 minutes. Each week FunDza publishes a specially commissioned short story. A chapter is released daily, making reading a habit. Each story is archived in FunDza’s growing library for readers to access at any point in the future. In the book-publishing world, a bestseller in South Africa is considered to be a book that sells more than 3,000 copies. FunDza short stories are read by more than this number in just a one-month period.
“Whilst FunDza’s programmes intend at the very heart to ignite a passion for reading and writing, we also recognise the power of stories to shift attitudes, challenge beliefs and ultimately impact on behaviour. For SA to develop an active citizenry it needs not only to be literate but also to be empowered with and by knowledge,” says managing trustee, Mignon Hardie.
Each story will also be translated into one of SA’s other official languages. FunDza believes not only in promoting reading in English but also in providing content in the various home languages as a means of growing a culture of reading and of widening the potential reading pool of South Africans. There is little fictional reading material in SA’s indigenous languages and this lack creates an additional barrier to improving literacy and getting young people to identify themselves as readers.
You can read ‘Nowhere to hide’ or, in isiZulu, ‘Ayikho Indawo Yokubaleka’ at www.fundza.mobi or add FunDza as a contact on Mxit.