ReadSA goes to Pietermaritzburg

On the 17th and 18th of March as part of the ReadSA initiative I had the pleasure of going to Pietermaritzburg and speaking to students at Orient Heights Primary School, from six primary schools (Orient Heights Primary, Greenhills Primary, Ramatha Road Primary, Springhaven Primary, Ridgeview Primary, and Northlands Primary).

The two day event was perfectly organised by English teacher Amisha Aiyer and ReadSA, which included bussing in students from all the schools, and taking excellent care of the writers.

The writers: Ivor Hartmann, Zukiswa Wanner, Ellen Banda-Aaku, and Mukanda Mulemfo.

On the 17th four writers, Ellen Banda-Aaku, Mukanda Mulemfo, Zukiswa Wanner and I, talked to the students about writing and being a writer. As well as donating copies of our books (many thanks go to my publisher Vivlia for donating copies of Mr. Goop) to the six school libraries. We even a managed to fit in a workshop on creative writing and character creation, which ended with a creative writing competition to be handed in the next day.

Students from Orient Heights Primary, Greenhills Primary, Ramatha Road Primary, Springhaven Primary, Ridgeview Primary, and Northlands Primary.

On the 18th Zukiswa and I (Ellen and Mukanda had to leave for Durban), after an assembly talk with the whole of Orient Heights Primary, continued with the workshop started the day before. Students read their assignments aloud and we commented on each work. At the end of the readings we determined a first place prize winner, and awarded signed copies of the books. Lastly, in keeping with an ongoing culture of reading and to foster some friendly competition between schools, ReadSA asked that each school form a book club. These school book clubs will write and send one summary/analysis of monthly to ReadSA. The school with the winning summaries will be rewarded with more book donations within 18 months from this event.

Amisha Aiyer

So I give many thanks to Amisha and ReadSA, and all in all I believe it was a great experience for all involved. As for most (if not all) the students this was the first time they had met a writer in-person, and for me it was the first time meeting my readers (or potential readers) of Mr. Goop. So I learnt as much from the students as they did from us. The students were, I hope, inspired by the event to become avid readers of African literature, and perhaps saw the first blossoming of future South African writers from Pietermaritzburg.

Assembly with all the Students of Orient Heights Primary, with Zukiswa Wanner and Ivor Hartmann.