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Collaborative project demonstrates the power of partnerships

Statement issued by the Otto Foundation and the Waterfront Rotary Club

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.

The project kicked off in February 2021 under the stewardship of a project steering committee which included representatives from the Otto Foundation, the Waterfront Rotary Club and the Chapel Street Primary School management team and school governing body.

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.

The need for quality – Early learning can only be effective with the necessary resources, quality teaching and manageable classroom sizes.

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.

Successful fundraising allowing for an expansion of project scope

The initial budget for the project was R1.27 million – earmarked to cover the construction of a new Grade R classroom and the renovation of an existing classroom space to create a library. The Western Cape Department of Education committed R507 659 to the project, amounting to 40% of the anticipated project cost.

The contribution from the Western Cape government created momentum for the project steering committee to successfully raise funds to cover the full cost of the Grade R construction and the library renovation, and to expand the project scope to include an upgrade to the Grade R playground. The Grade R playground was in a state of such disrepair that it was cordoned off, and not being used by learners.

The final cost for the expanded project was R1.78 million - made possible by the contributions of a number of philanthropic organisations, non-profit organisations and local businesses, including:

· Biblionef SA

· Clicks South Africa

· The Kamvalethu Foundation

· The Otto Foundation

· The Waterfront Rotary Club

· The Wilde Ganzen Foundation, and

· Wings of Support

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.

Working with local businesses

The 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 Sunbird Library is the fourth school library established by the Otto Foundation at a cluster of schools in the District Six/ Zonnebloem area, and one of 13 schools in the Cape Town metropole whose libraries either have been or are being supported by the Waterfront Rotary Club as part of their commitment to promoting literacy.

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.

Demonstrating the power of partnerships

This project was made possible by the operational and financial support of a wide range of project partners. 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.

Background on the Otto Foundation and the Waterfront Rotary Club:

Otto Foundation website:

Follow the Otto Foundation on Instagram: @ottofoundation

Follow the Otto Foundation on Facebook: @ottofoundationSA

Waterfront Rotary Club website:

Follow the Waterfront Rotary Club on Facebook and Linkedin


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