On Tuesday 27 September the Sunbird Library at Chapel Street Primary School was officially opened by the Western Cape Minister of Education, David Maynier.

The Sunbird Library is part of a collaborative project between civil society organisations and the Western Cape Department of Education to construct a new Grade R classroom at the school, to upgrade the Grade R playground, and to create an inviting, child-friendly library from which to drive programmes to promote reading for enjoyment.

This is the third school library that has been built by the Otto Foundation in partnership with the Kamvalethu Foundation.

Photo Image: Before pictures of the Library
Photo Image: After pictures of the Library

Project rationale

The project was a response to the Western Cape Department of Education’s invitation to civic partners to become part of a “whole of society” effort to reach its critical goal of ensuring that all learners can read for meaning by age 10. The investment in Grade R infrastructure and an actively managed school library was motivated by the steering committee’s conviction around the following themes:

  • Early interventions shift trajectories – Early investment in literacy and numeracy development for young children is proven to reduce socio-economic inequality.
  • Reading and books are key – Research findings consistently show that reading for enjoyment is more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status, and that access to books can balance the effect of poverty on reading achievement.
  • Active library programmes – Children are more likely to read for enjoyment if they have access to diverse, age-appropriate books, have strong reading role models, and if reading is celebrated and recognised in their school environment.


Project beneficiaries

Chapel Street Primary School serves 575 learners who typically commute to school from lower income communities outside of the city centre. A small dedicated staff of 20 educators, under the leadership of principal Karriem Gabriels, is working hard to consistently improve the school’s literacy scores.

Photo Image: Chapel Street Learners Reading Poems


Working with local businesses

The project steering committee worked with a number of local professionals, creatives and manufacturers to create and equip the Grade R classroom, the Grade R playground and the Sunbird Library.

The project is therefore a good news story about creating beautiful spaces for children, fostering a love of reading, and supporting the local economy in the process.



Maintaining an active library programme

The Otto Foundation maintains active involvement in the management of the school libraries that they set up. Learners have weekly library lessons based on themes aligned to the CAPS curriculum. The Otto Foundation’s librarians and project team ensure that the libraries have growing collections of diverse books that speak to the context and experiences of the learners in our schools. In addition, the Foundation runs various campaigns and initiatives throughout the year to create excitement about reading and to celebrate reading achievements – including: opportunities for fantasy play, book review competitions, writing competitions, an annual book quiz, a reading relay and regular author readings.

Photo Image: Otto Foundation Team


Demonstrating the power of partnerships

This collaborative project was made possible by the operational and financial support of a wide range of project partners, including: Biblionef SA, Clicks South Africa, the Kamvalethu Foundation, the Otto Foundation, the Waterfront Rotary Club, the Wilde Ganzen Foundation and Wings of Support. It is a testament to what can be achieved when the public sector partners with civil society organisations and the business community to upgrade and expand school infrastructure and invest in the improvement of education outcomes.


Remarks by Western Cape Education Minister, David Maynier

In his speech at the opening, the Western Cape Minister of Education, Mr David Maynier, emphasised the academic importance of reading as well as the impact that it can have on the wellbeing of children.

Quoting American academic and Harvard president Charles W. Eliot, he reminded the project partners and school community that “books are the quietest and most constant of friends, they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers”.


Activating the library space

Chapel Street Primary School learners will start weekly library lessons from October this year. The Otto Foundation team is looking forward to seeing the impact that the library will have on reading and learning at the school.

Thank you to the Kamvalethu Foundation for trusting us to help them fulfil their mission to positively impact the lives of previously disadvantaged children in South Africa through education.

Photo Image: Sunbird Library ‘Read to Dream’