Half a million books donated to South African school children
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Glasgow life

Half a million books donated to South African school children

18/07/2015
A twenty-foot shipping container, filled to the brim with children’s books and bound for Nelson Mandela’s home province of Eastern Cape, set sail from Glasgow City Chambers this Saturday on what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 97th birthday.

Launched by Deputy Lord Provost, Councillor Gerry Leonard and Honorary Consul for South Africa, Brian Filling, the container, the tenth of its kind to be sent from Glasgow since 1995, brings the total number of books donated to South African children to a whopping 500,000.

The initiative, delivered by Action for Southern Africa (Scotland) (ACTSA Scotland) and supported by Glasgow Life, calls on residents throughout Scotland to donate children’s books of all kinds, to encourage reading for fun and help young South Africans develop fluency in English. 

Deputy Lord Provost Councillor Gerry Leonard said: “Glasgow has a long and proud tradition of supporting South Africa.  I am delighted to wave off the latest container of books and to host a civic reception to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s birthday.  I would like to thank everyone who donated books, and Glasgow Life users and staff who coordinated the collection.”

Brian Filling, Honorary Consul for South Africa and Chair, ACTSA Scotland said: “To have sent half a million books to the children of South Africa is a wonderful achievement. The books are cherished by South African children, who are still suffering from centuries of deprivation inflicted on their country and people by apartheid and colonialism. This contribution from the people of Scotland goes some way in helping to overcome that legacy and build a better future in the land of Nelson Mandela.”

In 2009 the United Nations designated Nelson Mandela’s birth date as “Nelson Mandela International Day” and each year individuals and organisations from around the world are called upon to volunteer for 67 minutes of the day, to match the 67 years, including more than 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela spent in public service. 

Over 50 people chalked up more than their 67 minutes of volunteering time at Hillhead Library on Saturday, helping to collect, collate and load over 1000 boxes of children’s books on to the shipping container, ready for its voyage to South Africa. 

Unwanted story books and factual books in good condition, for all ages from pre-school to teenagers, donated at libraries, schools and churches across Scotland, including Glasgow’s Cardonald, Dennistoun, Hillhead, Langside, Maryhill and Shettleston Community Libraries, as well as the iconic Mitchell Library, make up the nine-tonne load of children’s stories. 

Children in South Africa are taught in English from the third year of primary school, and are therefore encouraged to read English-language stories for pleasure, to increase confidence and understanding. 

Following the official send-off of the shipping container from George Square, volunteers joined delegates at a formal reception at City Chambers, hosted by the Deputy Lord Provost. 

Guests were treated to performances by Glasgow University jazz band, Charlie and the Bachelors, and an ensemble rendition of the South African National Anthem led by young Scottish singer Magnus Walker.

Glasgow has a strong, long-standing affiliation with South Africa, having been the first city in the world to honour Nelson Mandela with the Freedom of the City, in 1981; nine years before he was released from jail. 

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