The following interview was conducted with Thozama and RiRi, both established, hardworking members of the Community Reading team. The Community Readers (Nobalisas) regularly bring stories to life in local schools, creating a fun and relaxed environment where the children love to learn.
What do you do at Axium Education?
Thozama: Our job at Axium Education is an interesting programme. We work with children in schools in the local area through drama, storytelling, fun games and songs.
And what is your favourite part of the job?
Thozama: I would have to say the storytelling because the children enjoy it and it allows them to be free with their imagination.
RiRi: It would have to be the songs, mainly because the kids seem to enjoy as much as I enjoy it myself!
What do you find challenging?
Thozama: The most challenging part of the job is when the children don’t want to read. We overcome this by encouraging them and working with them.
RiRi: I would have to say the most challenging thing is managing a huge number of children in my own group.
Any interesting stories from working with Axium?
Thozama: Although not a story, the most interesting factor would have to be seeing the improvement in the children that you are working with.
RiRi: When the people you work with are as interesting as the Community Reader team, then it just makes the whole job fun and interesting.
If you could choose how to spend the national education budget, how would you spend it?
Thozama: Add more experienced teachers to the local schools to increase the standard of education that the children receive. Also, make sure that everyone has access to computers so that everyone has the opportunity to explore them and what they are capable of doing.
If there was some kind of magic that could ensure that all kids had access to three literacy-developing things in the first 7 years of their lives – what would you choose?
RiRi: Make sure every child had the opportunity to experience storytelling, both listening to others and the opportunity to create their own. Secondly, make sure that we focussed on children’s writing but they should be able to write what they want to write. Finally, to highlight the importance of dramatising. Some children are better at dramatising than writing so we should provide them with this opportunity.
What is your favourite story to tell? Why?
Thozama: Silly Thukile. It is an isiXhosa story about a man who likes to do crazy things. It’s a funny story that always makes me and the kids laugh! Everyone seems to enjoy it, hence why it is one of my favourites.
If you could describe yourself as one of the characters in a story you know, who would you be? Why?
RiRi: I would have to compare myself to Mama Jumbo, she is who I want to be like because she is so loving, caring and kind.
(*editor’s note: Mama Jumbo is a friendly elephant…RiRi might be friendly, but in no way resembles an elephant!)
Tell us about your first week at schools with Axium.
Thozama: The first week at Axium I had the opportunity to dramatise my first story. The story I did was Handa’s Suprise… It was a lot of fun to tell and dramatise it! I was a goat!
RiRi, why do the team call you RiRi?
RiRi: I was once wearing a jacket that had RiRi written on the side. The team saw it and started calling me it as a joke, the name just happened to stick!
And what are your plans for next year?
RiRi: I will be leaving the Community Reader team. I am hoping to go back to school in order to get some more qualifications.
What are your dreams for the CR programme in 2016?
Thozama: To expand. The programme is going to continue to grow. I hope to have a positive impact in more schools and the increase in community readers means that we should be able to impact a larger number of children.