Who we are
Established in 1987, Fundza is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that provides reading materials aimed at improving the quality of education in Swaziland's schools. The word Fundza is a SiSwati word meaning "to learn" or "to read" depending on the context.
Fundza's mission is to raise the literacy rate and promote life-long learning among Swazi children. Our vision is to build a reading nation. We aim at increasing literacy rates by making information and library services available to primary and high schools. Fundza trains teachers in library management and in methods to improve literacy. In addition, we provide and promote HIV/AIDS materials, run annual school debate competitions and train other NGOs on how to manage their Information Resource Centers.
We have a small, passionate board of directors that sets Fundza's direction. Our board members have developed their conviction in the power of reading to change lives through personal experience. Our daily operations are led by Ms. Nonkululeko Mdluli, a dynamic and professional librarian with many years experience in library development.
Our office is headquartered in the Ministry of Education and Training in Mbabane, Swaziland's capitol city. During our 25 year history, we have helped develop over 400 school libraries throughout Swaziland.
What daily life is like here
Swaziland is a small, mountainous country with a mostly rural population of 1.3 million people. Unfortunately, our beautiful little country has the highest HIV infection rate in the world. Our families have tried to absorb the huge numbers of orphaned children, but it has really begun to overwhelm us. Now, many orphans live at home alone doing their best to survive.
In 2010, Swaziland opened up our public school system to all children who want to learn. Although the schools are now very crowded, we have high hopes that eventually, this opportunity for education will make a huge difference in our country. Our children wear uniforms to school and we do a lot of singing at school and any time Swazis get together. Each school has a choir and dance team that competes with other schools for top honors the way American sports teams compete. Swazis also love football (soccer)!
Learning English is a critical skill for our students. Examinations are conducted in English and students must do well to compete for places in secondary school. English fluency levels remain low as there is no emphasis on speaking English at home and even in some schools.
Getting students to read their textbooks is hard. It starts from us adults, there is no reading culture here, no books in our homes so now children find it hard to read. There is even a saying here, "If you want to hide something from an African, then put it in a book!" We are determined to change this attitude to become a reading culture. We are proud that schools now do have library periods allocated in each school time table for reading time.
Why we work with the African Library Project
To us books are like a gold mine, you become enriched, equipped and empowered. To be full of knowledge, you are like an armed, fortified soldier. We have a great need for this kind of gold in Swaziland! The ALP closes the gap of the lack of reading materials. Not only do we appreciate and sorely need the books, we are implementing the ideas that ALP has gathered from working on rural library development in other African countries. These ideas work here, too, and we would not know about them without the African Library Project spreading the word.
How we work with the African Library Project
We keep a list of schools who are still unreached with reading materials. Some have no communication network and are accessible only by driving to them, not even on proper roads. Nevertheless, we are able to get books and training to them. We take their application, give it to ALP, receive and distribute the books, then train their staff and monitor their library's progress.
What we have accomplished with ALP
Each year we have increased the number of libraries! We conduct one-day library management skills training workshops for two teacher-librarians from each school.
In November 2011, Swaziland was privileged to host the 3rd ALP African Partners Summit in our capital, Mbabane. We welcomed 38 delegates from six nations and our schools were very proud to show their libraries off. On the last day of the Summit, 90 of our teacher-librarians came to Mbabane for workshops run by the ALP partners from other African countries. They learned so much! We had a parade and celebration with dancing, singing and speeches to acknowledge the great strides we are making in Swaziland with the help of the African Library Project.
Our hopes and wishes
I see Swazis becoming a less talking nation and more of a reading nation, good at analytical and critical thinking so that they can make sound decisions to prosper the nation. I pray for every Swazi to be empowered with knowledge so that they can make informed choices. People are dying for lack of knowledge.
How you can help
Please adopt a library in Swaziland and send it books.
Our sincere thanks to the people making it happen
Many thanks goes to Chris Bradshaw and Team, ALP Board of Directors, and the collectors of books. You are altogether lovely, your velvet touch is changing the lives of the Swazi people. Our sincere gratitude goes to the people of America. Once again you've made your country proud.
Number of ALP libraries in Swaziland: 254 (updated June 2014). Some of these libraries were started with the Swaziland National Library Service.
Number of readers reached: 300,000