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May 26, 2008

Sony Group to Support the "South Africa Mobile Library Project"

- Donating Used Books to Children -

South African NPO SAPESI
Sony Corporation

SAPESI (South Africa Primary Education Support Initiative), an NPO based in the Republic of South Africa (hereafter South Africa) and Sony Corporation (hereafter Sony) today announced Sony's support for the "South Africa Mobile Library Project". This project was jointly launched by SAPESI and the South African Department of Education in 2005, as part of the Department of Education's efforts to improve literacy levels by loaning books to pupils and teachers at primary and middle schools across the country. Sony will make a financial contribution to SAPESI in support of the project's operations, and will also donate used children's book collected at six Sony Group companies* located in English-speaking regions. (These books are in the process of being collected.)

The issue of education in African nations remains a key theme that will also be discussed at the fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD**), to be held from May 28 in Yokohama, Japan. While initiatives carried out by the South African government have led to a primary school enrollment ratio exceeding 87%, the access to books - an indispensable tool for literacy education - is limited, and the ratio of schools possessing a library is less than 5%.

  • *Sony Australia, Sony New Zealand, Sony South Africa, Sony Singapore, Sony Hong Kong, Sony UK
  • **International conference co-hosted by the Government of Japan, the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, the United Nations Development Programme, the World Bank and others with the objective of promoting development in Africa.
Each book is marked
with a sticker indicating
that it was donated by Sony

In order to address this issue, SAPESI is coordinating with the South African Department of Education to support provincial departments of education on the import procedures, operation and management of second-hand mobile library vehicles donated by local municipalities in Japan. In 2007, the 19 mobile library units operated as part the South Africa Mobile Library Project visited a total of 455 schools, and by increasing the number of vehicles to 35 in 2008, SAPESI aims to extend its operations to the remaining five provinces which have not yet started mobile library activities, and increase the number of schools visited to 900.

Furthermore, while South Africa has 11 official languages (including nine indigenous languages), books written in its indigenous languages are especially scarce, and there are concerns that the use of some of these languages may fade out. SAPESI is supporting the preservation of South Africa's indigenous languages through its mobile library activities, and Sony's financial contribution will also facilitate the purchase of books in these languages, which will be sent to schools aboard mobile libraries.

"As expressed in one of the key themes of our social contribution activities, "For the Next Generation', Sony places a high priority on promoting education for children - the next generation - and we have been supporting educational activities for almost 50 years. Regarding the South Africa Mobile Library Project, Sony Australia employees have already been donating used children's books to the project every year since 2005. Going forward we aim to contribute to the enrichment of children's education in South Africa by supporting this project throughout the Sony Group," said Hidemi Tomita, General Manager, CSR Department, Sony Corporation.

"The South Africa Mobile Library Project provides children with the opportunity to interact with a wide range of books, while the librarians that travel onboard the vehicles are also able to train teachers at the schools, many of whom previously had only limited access to books. This contributes to an improved quality of education for the children. The Sony Group is the only company currently supporting this project, but I hope that many more will participate in the future," commented SAPESI Representative Tadashi Hasunuma.

About SAPESI (South Africa Primary Education Support Initiative)

SAPESI is a South African NPO that has jointly overseen the "South Africa Mobile Library Project" with the South African Department of Education since the project's launch in 2005. A Japanese NGO has been sending mobile libraries and books, and SAPESI began to administer the acquisition and transportation of mobile library vehicles since 2007,. It is a recipient of Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects from the Embassy of Japan in South Africa, and with support from the Society for Promotion of Japanese Diplomacy (SPJD) it continues to acquire and transport used mobile libraries to South Africa. SAPESI is also involved in the collection of books for use in the mobile libraries, albeit on a limited scale.

  • Established:
    August, 2006
  • Headquarters:
    Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa
  • Representative:
    Tadashi Hasunuma
  • Total Members:
    Nine, of which seven are based in South Africa (Nationalities: South African (four), Japanese (five))

About "South Africa Mobile Library Project"

Joint project between the South African Department of Education and SAPESI (established in 2005) as part of the Department's efforts to improve South Africa's literacy levels. The project acquires used mobile libraries from Japan to South Africa, where provincial departments of education operate them to provide the loan of books to children and teachers at primary and middle schools that do not possess these resources.

The mobile libraries visit the recipient schools twice every school term (the South African school year is divided into four terms) to loan and collect books. Librarians travel onboard the vehicles, and advise teachers at the schools how to select the appropriate books and use them in their lessons. As a result, not only do the children gain an opportunity to interact with a diverse range of books, but teachers are also able to learn how to utilize the materials, and maximize their potential.

Furthermore, of the nine years compulsory education received by South African children, the first two years are spent learning to read and write one of the country's official languages, but from the third year almost all lessons are carried out in English. Apart from Afrikaans (derived from Dutch) and English, nine of South Africa's 11 official languages are indigenous languages that have been handed down by word of mouth, and with only a limited quantity of materials written in these languages remaining, there are concerns that some of them may fade out. At the same time, some students struggle to adapt to English which starts from their third year and leave school without completing their education. This has led to action from government and non-government organizations to promote the uptake of books in both English and indigenous languages.

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