Nal'ibali's multilingual children's stories now zero-rated

05 August 2020 - 12:09
Bulelani Futshane – a Nal’ibali provincial support co-ordinator – using his phone to access a story from the Nal’ibali website for children.
Bulelani Futshane – a Nal’ibali provincial support co-ordinator – using his phone to access a story from the Nal’ibali website for children.
Image: Supplied by Nal'ibali

Major SA network operators including Vodacom, MTN and Telkom Mobile have zero-rated the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign’s web and mobi sites for as long as the country remains in a coronavirus-related state of national disaster. This means that Nal'ibali’s multilingual content can be accessed for free with no data cost to the user for this time.

The announcement coincides with closure of public schools from July 27 to August 24, and is an opportunity for caregivers to sustain their children’s literacy learning. “Learning to read is a challenge for the majority of SA children and they tend to lose the gains they made in the classroom over the school holidays. The same will now be true for children for whom school is closed yet again,” says Yandiswa Xhakaza, Nal’ibali CEO.

Xhakaza explains that the impact will be most felt by grade two and three children who will have made some progress towards learning to read, and under-fives at a grade R or preschool level as these are the critical years for language development. However, the zero-rating of the Nal’ibali website means that caregivers can keep their children’s literacy learning up and give their children a powerful academic boost while they wait for school to start again, simply by accessing the campaign’s digital library of multilingual children’s stories.

Hearing stories develops the neural connections and brain architecture children need to learn to read, write, and count. It exposes children to more words and grows their vocabulary. At school, they are better able to read because they understand more. Children who read regularly for pleasure perform better in the classroom than those who do not – across all subjects, not only in languages.

In a bid to support South Africans everywhere in nurturing a love of reading, the Nal’ibali campaign also provides free reading-for-enjoyment training on its mobi site.

Concludes Xhakaza: “Children who love to read can help change the path of our country. Reading will help us to build powerful people, a strong economy and a connected society, whether they choose to access our stories via a fixed line or wi-fi.”