The tyres that help get the books to the chil­dren of South Africa

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

WHEELS salutes the best use of wheels in South Africa, where Bridge­stone spon­sors 50 li­brary buses vis­it­ing schools in all nine prov­inces.

The mo­bile li­braries visit 885 schools with­out their own li­braries.

“The typ­i­cal mo­bile li­brary is a con­verted bus which of­fers a se­lec­tion from over 550 000 chil­dren’s books avail­able to the project,” said Bridge­stone pub­lic re­la­tions man­ager De­sirée van Niek­erk.

“Our spon­sor­ship of this ini­tia­tive goes hand-in-hand with our in­volve­ment in other ed­u­ca­tion ac­tiv­i­ties such as the Diep­sloot preschools project, Bridg­ing for Life and our on­go­ing support for the Rally to Read ini­tia­tive,” she added.

The Mo­bile Li­brary Project is over­seen by Sapesi (the South African Pri­mary Ed­u­ca­tion Support Ini­tia­tive) and moves into its 11th year this year. Apart from gen­eral li­brary ser­vices, the project also in­cludes a spe­cialised bus for Grade R pre-pri­mary pupils, which has been rolled out in Gaut­eng. The mo­bile li­braries in­clude on-board li­brar­i­ans to as­sist pupils with fos­ter­ing a love of read­ing.

The ser­vice has proven par­tic­u­larly use­ful in the Free State, and one-third of all schools with­out li­braries in the prov­ince are now ser­viced by the Bridge­stone-shod mo­bile li­braries.

How­ever, chal­lenges re­main, ac­cord­ing to Sapesi —fewer than 10% of all South African schools have func­tional li­braries. To im­prove un­der­stand­ing of the im­pact of the mo­bile li­braries, the Free State Univer­sity’s school of ed­u­ca­tion is un­der­tak­ing a study that will help im­prove the ser­vice across the coun­try. Data from the study is ex­pected to be avail­able at the end of the year.

Away from the books and buses them­selves, there are other prac­ti­cal prob­lems as some schools have no elec­tric­ity sup­ply, so the buses carry on-board gen­er­a­tors to en­sure the li­braries func­tion op­ti­mally dur­ing school vis­its.

“One of the many as­pects which im­pressed us about the Mo­bile Li­brary Project is the em­pha­sis on con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ment,” said Van Niek­erk.

“For in­stance, some ru­ral schools are be­ing equipped with start-up li­braries to help them make the tran­si­tion from a mo­bile li­brary to a school li­brary,” she said.

“Ed­u­ca­tion is the key to the fu­ture and it will re­main one of Bridge­stone’s piv­otal ar­eas of so­cial-re­spon­si­bil­ity in­volve­ment,” she said.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Pupils get books from one of 50 mo­bile li­brary buses rid­ing on Bridge­stone tyres in SA.

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