Cape Town Diaries: University of Cape Town, Long Street

June 22, 2013
We went to meet with a librarian at the University of Cape Town, so that she could show us some of the books in the rare books collection.  It was a nice overview for our children's literature study tour. 
It was cool to visit a South African university for a bit, even if we only got a small glimpse.  We learned that the University of Cape Town is traditionally a British school and rivals Stellenbosch, a school that was originally for Afrikaners.  The University of Cape Town is ranked highly in the world, and was (and still is) a pretty progressive school because coloureds and blacks were admitted to the college before most other universities were on board with this.

Our group visited the Jagger library and got a closer look at some great South African children's books!  Some of the titles that were mentioned were The Sound of the Gora, Ashraf of Africa, Charlie's House, Our Village Bus, and The Race, to name a few. 

A lot of what was said about literacy and books in general in South Africa was similar to what we learned about in our South African children's literature course.  One of the biggest problems is that there isn't a culture of reading in South Africa.  Books are more expensive in South Africa than they are in the United States, and people are living off of smaller incomes.  When there is the choice to buy books for children or to put food on the table, families put the necessities first.  This leads to children not having as many experiences with books at home.  In general, people in South Africa own fewer books, and many of the books South Africans own are written by overseas authors instead of South African ones.  There is a lot of great South African children's literature out there, but it doesn't always get the recognition it deserves and is harder to find than a lot of the imported books.

Below is a picture of my friend and I inside a bookstore in South Africa.  If you look at the selection, you can see that the books are just like the ones you would find in America.  This can become problematic for South African children because the stories they are exposed to may not always be the most culturally relevant.  We went in several book stores trying to find books by South African authors, and the book shops we visited had a very limited selection of these types of books. 

 Another problem is that in South Africa there are 11 official languages, but many children's authors want to write books in English because books in English appeal to a wider audience, which in turn expands their readership.  Children who are speaking a language other than English as their native tongue will often be exposed to stories in English or be expected to be able to read and write in English before fully becoming literate in their native language.  Research has indicated that best practices would be for children to become literate in their own language first before being expected to achieve literacy in a second language.  Unfortunately, there really is lack of books available for children in languages other than English.

Here are some scenes from around the University of Cape Town.


After lunch, we had a short visit with Carole Bloch, of PRAESA (Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa).  PRAESA works with the government to integrate a multilingual policy, and one of the goals of this organization is to bring South African children together by allowing them to read the same stories in their own languages.


 In the afternoon, we had some free time around Long Street.  Long Street was where the fictional book Skyline by Patricia Schonstein Pinnock took place.  Since we all read this before our departure to Cape Town, it was neat to get to experience the setting firsthand.  Below are some photos of Skyline, which is what the apartment complex is called.

The main character in the book Skyline has a sister named Mossie who is obsessed with a bead shop down the road.  We went to visit the bead shop, but the original shop wasn't there.  Above where the old bead shop used to be was a different bead shop, which I think had different owners than the first.

Scott, Allyson, and I broke away from the larger group and strolled down Long Street, taking in the architecture.

We stopped at the Pan African market for some shopping.  I LOVED all of the handmade crafts!

Our group met back up at the Labia, which is a movie theatre.  (I know what you're thinking about the movie theatre's name.  We all were thinking it, too!).  I always like having one movie experience in another country since I have worked in various movie theatres over a span of nine years.  The movie we saw was called Orania.  Orania is a real place in South Africa, and it is a separate community of white, mostly working class Afrikaners.  We were told that the government of South Africa tolerates Orania's existence, as long as they continue to not cause any trouble.  Orania is self-governing and only accepts Afrikaners into the town.  They even have their own currency and flag.  Residents of Orania state that they are not racist, but just want to preserve their own culture.

After the movie, we decided to stay in the area and eat at Masala Dosa which is an Indian restaurant, as you probably guessed by the name.  I ordered the chana masala thali and it was delicious!

It was a full day, but a really fun one!
2 comments on "Cape Town Diaries: University of Cape Town, Long Street"
  1. Hey! I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award :)

    1. Thank you! :) I will try to get this filled out tonight or tomorrow.