Ten takeaways from the African Storybook Project Colloquium in Stellenbosch recently


Submitted by Fiona Beal

The African Storybook Project is well under way to scale up the availability of free reading material for African children in Grades 1-3 through the digital medium. (I have written about this project in previous posts on the SchoolNet blog.) It is planned that the African Storybook website that will house this collection of stories will be released in early 2014. This post serves to highlight the African Storybook Colloquium which was held at Stellenbosch University on 17-19th October 2013. This Colloquium introduced the African Storybook project, its stories and pilot sites (Uganda. Kenya and South Africa) and its international partners to our South African and other African universities with the intention of providing a basis for the development of a collaborative research framework for the project. The Colloquium was organised by Bonny Norton from the University of British Colombia and Tessa Welch the project leader of Saide’s African Storybook Project.

I was privileged to attend this colloquium in Stellenbosch and these are my ten take-aways from this event.  There were 40 participants at the Colloquium from 6 African countries, 10 Universities and 5 research and development projects.

image1. The opening keynote was an absolute highlight for me. It was given by Brent Kaulback, the Assistant Superintendent of the South Slave Divisional Education Council in the Northwest Territories of Canada: http://www.ssdec.nt.ca/. Brent called his session ‘Creating Futures’. He gave such insight into the communities found in the North West Terrirotoes and showed how they are capturing history through the creation of e-books. These e-books impact dramatically on children’s reading.

2. The three country co-ordinators for the African Storybook project from Uganda. Kenya and South Africa gave very interesting input on what they are doing in their respective country pilots with regard to story acquisition.  

3. I loved the various discussions on ‘What is digital storytelling?’, versioning and chunking a story, what is suitable content for children, and using stories for literacy development.

4. It was fascinating to hear what the different SA universities, African Universities and global partnerships are doing in researching literacy. Each representative from the various universities gave a 5-10 minute talk on their roles at their respective institutions.

image5. I really enjoyed Elinor Sizulu’s public lecture on ‘Why I write for children’. Elinor Sisulu is the founder of the Puku Children’s Literature Foundation – http://www.puku.co.za and she is also the author of the award-winning children’s book ‘The day Gogo went to vote’. It was fascinating listening to Elinor reminsicing events from her childhood that led to her passion for children’s literature.

6. One of the presentations was given to us via Skype by Suzanne Romaine from Oxford University. Suzanne emailed her presentation to Tessa who clicked on the slides as Suzanne elaborated on them. Suzanne is well known for her paper entitled ‘Keeping the promise of the Millennium Development Goals: Why language matters’.


7. It was interesting to hear about the work of the different research and development projects regarding Literacy development.


8. Bonny Norton highlighted a new tool, Scribjab (http://www.scribjab.com/), which is a multilingual tool to create and share digital stories in 2 different languages. I really want to explore this tool. 


9. Bonny Norton from the University of British Colombia and Tessa Welch the Project Leader from Saide led the Colloquium with such ease and efficiency, pulling together all the threads into a usable framework. The last session concentrated on developing a research framework from the various issues that had been highlighted during the Colloquium.

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10. Last but not least – the beautiful surroundings in the beautiful town of Stellenbosch made our stay very memorable.  We were accommodated in the various guest houses in the town – what a privilege to dwell amidst such beauty.

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