Puku Children’s Literature Foundation in South Africa has been awarded the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize 2021 for its programme, ‘Using digital technologies to promote children’s literature in South Africa’s indigenous languages’.

Established in 2009, the ‘Puku Children’s Literature Foundation’ is a non-governmental organisation that promotes reading and book development to ensure that all children, especially those living in materially deprived and marginalised areas, have access to books in all South African languages.

Puku’s long-term objective is to develop Pukupedia, an online encyclopaedia that will be the first multilingual and reliable source of information on children’s books in all South African languages.

Since 2016, 610 learners have benefited from the programme. Puku conducts workshops and social media activities to train storytellers, writers, teachers, librarians, language practitioners, cultural and literary activists and academics in the indigenous language ecosystem, enabling them to teach children.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Puku organised the first-ever webinar series in indigenous languages, as well as conversations within and between linguistic communities, through radio and social media, to promote the production of book catalogues in all indigenous languages.

Puku has had an important impact on the promotion of reading in indigenous languages from early childhood. Its website is a trusted source for children’s books reviews, with its book section featuring informational pages for roughly 2,500 books.

The organisation also published the first children’s picture book in the N/uu language in a trilingual format and aims to publish literature in other endangered languages.

The organisation strives to strengthen Puku’s digital platforms, to consolidate its partnerships with organisations working in the indigenous language and children’s literature fields.

“We need to harness their talent and abilities to populate our digital platforms with the enduring and memorable content that our children desperately need. Just as Nelson Mandela wanted all children in the world to experience the wonder of books, so do we want all children to have access to the digital spaces where they can enlarge their earthly dwelling place with the magic of stories,” commented Elinor Sisulu, Executive Director of Puku Children’s Literature Foundation.

Through prestigious literacy Prizes, UNESCO supports effective literacy practices and encourages the promotion of dynamic literate societies to close the literacy gap of approximately 773 million of people.

The UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize (3 awards), was established in 1989 and is supported by the Government of the Republic of Korea. It gives special consideration to programmes that promote mother language-based literacy development.

Each UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize winner receives a medal, a diploma and R285,350.00.

The other 2021 winners are Limitless Horizons Ixil (Guatemala) and India’s National Institute of Open Schooling.

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