The Liyabona Library

at Holy Cross Primary School



The Otto Foundation has partnered with library NGO The Bookery to build a library at Holy Cross RC Primary School in District Six. The project was made possible with financial support from community members and philanthropic donors, including EO Cape Town, MySchool, the Kamvalethu Foundation, the MAID Foundation and the Jannie Mouton Foundation


Child-centred design studio SeeSawDo designed a beautiful, multi-functional space in a covered courtyard at the school, which has quite literally placed books, stories and reading at the heart of Holy Cross. 


Two full-time librarians host weekly library lessons for the +-600 Holy Cross learners and manage an active lending programme. 

The library was built to honour the memory of Liyabona Mbaba, a Grade 1 learner from Holy Cross who died in a taxi accident in 2018. Liyabona means “he sees”. We believe that he sees what has been created in his memory. We believe that he is gladdened by what he sees. And we hope that the Liyabona Library will be a place that brings the Holy Cross family together, that gives them the assurance that they are “seen”, and that shows them that their stories are important.


The library was officially opened on 25 January 2020. 


Research from Equal Education shows that only 8% of South African schools have functional school libraries. Yet we know from international research that reading for pleasure outweighs the impact of socio-economic background on pupils’ success at school, and that reading stories or novels outside of school - reading for pleasure - correlates with higher scores in reading assessments.

The Otto Foundation's focus on school libraries is a response to the national literacy crisis in South Africa. We know that reading for enjoyment support improved reading achievement. To promote reading for enjoyment, children need access to books, and they have to be drawn into reading through culturally and contextually appropriate books on a diversity of themes and topics. 

We believe that well-managed school libraries can be a cornerstone for the promotion of reading for enjoyment in schools. 


How can you help us


  • Authors - get in touch to come and read your books to our learners, or to launch your new book in our library.

  • Publishers - let us know about new books that we could add to our catalogue. We are always looking for local titles to purchase.  

  • Other schools - visit us at the Liyabona Library, or bring your older learners to come and read to our Foundation Phase classes. 

  • #WC Reading Champions and Inspiration partners - please share your ideas on how to promote a culture of reading, or visit our library to brainstorm ideas with our team.

  • All friends of Holy Cross or the Liyabona Library - reach out to us if you are able to co-ordinate a book donation drive or other fundraiser on our behalf. 

  • Literacy organisations - contact us to use the Liyabona Library as a venue for your next gathering or training session. 

  • Donors - we are always looking for like-minded partners to help us finance the operational expenses of the library or to fund new book purchases.