Reaching out through radio

Bok och Bibliotek 2015, Arabella Koopman. Foto: Anna von Bršmssen

Arabella Koopman, Content Manager for PRAESA’S Nal’ibali campaign. Photo: Anna von Brömssen

In 2013, Nal’ibali (the reading-for-enjoyment campaign founded by PRAESA) launched a regular radio programme on eleven SABC public radio stations. Each of these radio stations airs children’s stories in one of the country’s official languages three times a week, taking Nal’ibali to 2.3 million listeners across South Africa. In fact, radio is the entry point for many people who interface with the Nal’ibali campaign.

“Oral storytelling, apart from being entertaining, provides children with the richness of language and concepts they need for successful learning. The regular radio story slots create a fantastic counterpart to the bilingual bi-monthly term time reading-for-enjoyment newspaper supplements that appear in select Times Media newspapers or which are delivered direct to reading clubs, libraries and NGOs,” comments Dr Carole Bloch, director of PRAESA (Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa).

One of the challenges of running a reading-for-enjoyment campaign in South Africa is that it is a large country and about one-third of its total population (54 million people*) live in rural areas, which are often difficult to access physically. So, getting newspaper supplements to people is often logistically difficult.

Given this reality, if is often suggested that mobile phones are the ‘ideal’ delivery mechanism. In a country which has over 48 million cellphone users (89% of the population**), you’d think that this would solve the problem of connecting children to stories and adults to information and practical help. Nal’ibali made good use of this campaign delivery platform by very early on creating a mobisite that both smartphone users (only 34% of all cellphone users**) and feature-phone users can access. But, the problem is that for most South Africans data costs are prohibitive and in most households there simply is not enough disposable income to allow for the buying of data to access reading material.

And that is where radio comes in. Everyone in the country has access to radio. Apart from the cost of your radio, radio is free. Whether you live in an urban or a rural area, whether you have access to electricity or not, and no matter which of the official languages you speak, you can listen to Nal’ibali stories with your children on the radio.

Nal’iabli began collecting stories suited to the medium of radio in 2013 – original stories, traditional South African stories, traditional stories from around the world that are retold in a South African setting and stories published by South African publishers. Each of the selected stories is translated into the other ten official languages and scripted for radio by the SABC. Season 3 of Nal’ibali Radio starts in the first quarter on 2016, and by the end of this year 234 stories in eleven languages will have been broadcast – that’s 2,574 stories in total. And because the same stories are heard by all children who tune in irrespective of which language they speak or where they live, the stories make a contribution to building a common literary heritage for all South Africa’s children.

Arabella Koopman
Content Manager for PRAESA’S Nal’ibali campaign, responsible for the development and management of reading materials.

*Source: Statistics South Africa

**Source: Spring 2014 Global Attitudes Survey, PEW Research Centre

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