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Rebuilding the Liyabona Library
: a progress update

The Otto Foundation and child-centered design team See Saw Do have an ambitious vision for the Liyabona Library and Learning Centre at Holy Cross Primary School.

We envisage a multi-functional, 21st century learning space for learners that will give them access to books and appropriate technology, inspire a love of reading, and be a safe and creative space for conversations about ideas and the world beyond the walls of the school. It is fitting for a school to have learning horizons that match its physical vistas of Table Mountain and the Foreshore.

We did suffer an initial setback earlier this year, when the original designated library space was destroyed in a fire at the school. However, we have been incredibly touched and encouraged by the support received after the fire from philanthropic trusts, corporate donors and caring individuals. At a recent fundraising event, Holy Cross principal, Nomthandazo Zweni said "we are all family now" - a fitting ode to the community that rallied to support the school’s efforts to ensure that education can resume, and the Otto Foundation’s efforts to re-imagine and re-build the library.

The dream re-imagined

The school management team has given us permission to re-purpose a covered courtyard as a library and learning space. We are very excited by the opportunity to quite literally put books and reading at the heart of the school, and developed an updated design vision for this compact space to maximise its usefulness.

Since the fire in February, donations (big and small) have made it possible for us to roll out Phase 1 of the design vision for the new library.

We have been able to install:

  • a librarian’s desk,

  • shelving for the initial book catalogue,

  • notice boards for reading-related displays,

  • synthetic grass for reading corners, and

  • a framework for fabricated walls and doors to close off and soundproof the space.

We are growing our library catalogue through:

  • an initial catalogue of 3500 books from The Bookery,

  • book donations, and

  • book purchases made possible by cash donations.

We have been able to create a sense of place with a mural inspired by the school’s history and our dream of making Holy Cross a story-powered school.

Two full time library assistants have been appointed. They have:

  • commenced their training with The Bookery,

  • visited the St Cyprian’s School library for additional training,

  • started facilitating library lessons to all Holy Cross learners once a week,

  • initiated an active book lending programme, and

  • started hosting an inspiring array of local authors for book readings.

A moment to celebrate

On July 30th, we took a moment to celebrate the progress that has been made since the slightly ‘rocky’ start to 2019.

During a “friendship and memories” themed event on Tuesday 30 July, the Grade 2 learners at Holy Cross paid tribute to their friend and classmate Liyabona Mbaba, who died in a taxi accident on his way to school a year ago. It was his legacy that inspired, and will live on in, the Liyabona Library and Learning Centre.  

Many wonderful people made this event a success:

  • Ms Carlene Leukes and her inspirational team of Foundation Phase teachers at Holy Cross,

  • Author Candice Noakes-Dobson who read her latest charming @alittlehorsecalledpancakes storybook to the Grade 2s, and then surprised them not only with their very own copies of the new book, but also a real-life visit by the one and only Pancakes!,

  • The wonderful LeoFoods who baked sprinkle-topped L-shaped cookies for each child, in honour of all lovely things L: love, libraries, learning, legacy and Liyabona... 

  • And the fantastic team from CapeTownBalloon who helped the school release dozens of colourful, biodegradable balloons, in honour of Liyabona.  

What’s next?

We are now ready to start implementing Phase 2 of the library design.

To make the library space fully functional, and a warm an inviting space for learners, our next steps are to:

  • Install security doors, additional shelves and display units,

  • Build a stage area with work stations and plug points for computer based learning,

  • Install soundproofing in the echoey courtyard space,

  • Create a listening corner for audiobook learning,

  • Install e-learning equipment (including a digital projector and internet),

  • Invest in more books,

  • Provide our librarians with the software and technical equipment they need to set up a professional library catalogue and lending system.

Whilst planning for the re-building of the damaged wing of the school is underway, physical space for any kind of activities and gatherings remains a serious challenge at Holy Cross. Where possible, the décor and furniture items in the library are designed to be fully mobile – to ensure that the space is multi-functional.

The next fundraising push

We know that the progress to date would not have been possible without the generosity of our donors.

Anyone who is keen to stay involved, and contribute to Phase 2 of the roll-out, can do so by:

Come and visit us

Lastly, we invite you to come and visit Holy Cross Primary School and

the new Liyabona Library. It is a work in progress, but it is a friendly

space where we are happy to receive guests.

You will be inspired to see the children being introduced to the world of

books, and our new librarians stepping up to the plate.

Everyone is in it for the same reason: the life-changing joy of


The fire may have left behind ashes and burnt down buildings, but it

also re-ignited passion for our mission: our need for a multi purpose

and functional library burns strongly and brightly. And together with the

resourcefulness and strength of the school and community ‘a phoenix

will rise from the ashes’.

We thank the community for their support and welcome anyone who would

like to visit the Liyabona Library & Learning Centre to see our progress.

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