Durable urban change is often about carefully targeted micro interventions that can change the energies and dynamics of a surrounding neighbourhood. The Masiphumelele Community Library is an example of such an invention – a point of hope and learning whose effects in the community are growing by the day.
Located amidst affluent peninsula communities, the informal settlement of Masiphumelele came into existence in 1992 and now contains about 20/25k people. They are mostly Xhosa speaking people from the Eastern Cape who have settled here because they and their families could not survive in their traditional rural homeland. 70-80% of the people are classified as ‘poorest of poor’, unemployment is probably over 50% and although many block and brick houses have been built, the vast majority of residents are shack dwellers.
Within this struggling community the Masiphumelele Library has been a beacon of hope. In 2003 Masiphumelele Corporation, an NGO founded by John and Carol Thompson, funded the building of a new library on an existing site and went on to build the double storey extension which provided space for a number of education-based community programmes. Masiphumelele Library has operated ever since with funding from the City of Cape Town and Masiphumelele Corporation.
This library and education resource centre serves a multitude of functions. In 2011 it loaned 12,500 adult and 28,000 children’s books. In addition to library services, it functions as a job centre, offers English-language instruction to children and adults, teaches computer literacy, and allows scholars access to a quiet study environment. It offers a total of 20 free education programmes.
Part of this project’s focus is to develop thinking skills in Ukhanyo Primary School. This program teaches children how to think, not what to think. It aims to connect with pupils' natural curiosity and sense of wonder about the world. It does this by developing skills which enable them to become more critical, flexible, creative and effective thinkers.
Thulile, as Grade 6 learner at Ukhanyo states it perfectly 'Your mind is your life' ,and this library is truly provided a lifeline of learning, innovation and development for many in the community of Masiphumelele.