The covid-crisis is spreading fast through South Africa.
The infections and death toll are rising. The economy struggling.
And between of all of this -- there is still a lot of confusion and misunderstanding.
Four months in - and there is still a shortage of high quality educational material for children.
And one of the major problems with the material produced for children so far, is that they continue to tell a story about children living in middle class / elite environments, meaning that much of the material does not speak to the experience of millions of children in cramped housing or informal settlements - an issue that directly impacts the spread of the virus.
Millions of children in South Africa and elsewhere live in cramped housing, sometimes without even electricity, internet or running water.
How are these children meant to social distance when there are so many living in a one room house in an informal settlement?
How are they supposed to play, or learn when stories don't depict their reality?
How will other children, in more privileged homes, learn about the lives of others when they only see themselves reflected in books?
We decided that we would tackle the misinformation ourselves by producing a series of books geared for children from underprivileged backgrounds.
The book will be bright, beautiful and empowering. It will detail the adventures of Duma, his sister Zihle and their friends, and their attempts to look after themselves and their community during covid-19.
We will do three books; and they will be made specially for tablets and
smartphones so that it might easy to read / shared.
The books will be translated into IsiZulu, IsiXhosa & Kiswahili (for East Africans)
They will also be free to download. They will be distributed free to schools and newspapers, too.
So- believe it or not -- Book One "Duma says: Wash your hands, wear a mask!" is
The first book book tells the story of how Duma and Zihle try to get their community to wear masks.
It has already been endorsed and listed on the South African government's
official coronavirus resource portal
Even South Africa's health minister Dr. Zweli Mkize shared it on social media.
How you can help!
Our plan is produce three books altogether.
Book Two will focus on how Duma and Zihle hatch a plan for the children in their informal settlements to continue with their education.
The final installation will see about how Duma and his friends find novel ways toplay with each other, while practicing social distancing.
But to complete the series -- we need your help!
We need some $$$$ to pay the illustrator/writer, the translators, the typesetter & for a small batch of printed books that we can sell + give to libraries in South Africa.
Another small batch of books will be available for sale from select book stores -- all profits for the printed material will go to Open Air School in Durban (for children with special education needs; Nathi Ngubane completed his high school certificate there)
This is what we will do with the money raised:
1. Pay the illustrator and the typesetters an honorarium for their time they have
generously given to this project.
2. Pay translators an honorarium for getting the stories translated into isiZulu
2. Pay for a small amount of books to be printed (sold online + at select independent book stores in South Africa + Amazon- with all profits going to Open Air School for learners for special educational needs in Durban - where Nathi matriculated.
This is a devastating moment for children, especially those who aren't lucky enough to be in homes and environments that cushion the instability brought by the pandemic. These kids need educational material and frankly all the help they can get.
We understand that times are tough and we ask that if you're able to contribute,
please do so. Every cent will be going to the production of the material.
If you aren't in a position to contribute with a donation, please do share the book with as many people as possible.
And finally, who are we?
Nathi Ngubane is a Durban-born illustrator and cartoonist. He started off as a cartoonist with The Daily Vox, then moved on to The Citizen.
These days he is a freelance illustrator and designer based in Jozi. For more info: https://www.facebook.com/ThinkAheadComix/
Azad Essa is a Durban-born journalist with Middle East Eye. He used to report on southern/central Africa for Al Jazeera. He now reports from NYC
and is founder of the experimental platform Social Bandit Media. He is also an associate of Department of African and African American Studies at
Harvard University. For more info: www.azadessa.com
Thank you for your kind consideration!
Nathi & Azad
"Duma says: Wash your hands, wear a mask" is now available as a paperback on Amazon !