“FunDza believes in the power of stories and storytelling to transform lives. The vast majority of young people in South Africa have no easy access to books or stories, especially stories that reflect their own lives and the issues that they face. FunDza changes that.”
Making books and stories meaningful to all South Africans
The FunDza Literacy Trust was established with one aim: to get young people across South Africa to love reading, stories and books, and make them a part of their daily lives. “It can be hugely disempowering when young people can’t find books or online content that they can relate to,” explains Mignon Hardie, Executive Director of FunDza. “It often means that they struggle to feel that books can be meaningful to them. This lack of a reading culture translates into low literacy rates that have an impact on academic performance and access to wider opportunities too.”
Reading isn’t just about storytelling: research shows that reading helps with language acquisition, comprehension skills, higher-order thinking, social skills and an understanding of the wider world. “Literacy is a game-changer. And its lack is felt in all sectors of society at the moment,” says Mignon.
Using cellphone technology
“Our purpose is to get young adults reading for pleasure and writing for expression and meaning. We use cellphone technology to broaden our reach and ensure that our homegrown stories, blogs, poetry and plays are easily accessible to anyone with a cellphone,” explains Mignon. “We’re the only literacy organisation in South Africa with a sole focus on teens and young adults, and we’re growing an ever-increasing ‘library’ of local content that is accessible on cellphones. Every day there is something new to read on fundza.mobi, which is proving to be hugely popular.” With 200,000 unique users each month, it’s a recipe that’s clearly working.
A big part of this is developing young writers to become the primary content contributors. At present , around 3,000 young people have had their creative work published on fundza.mobi. “We’ve also introduced a range of open online courses designed to grow vocabulary and build mastery of the language,” Mignon says. “We promote multilingualism, and have content in all official SA languages.”
Creating a mobile website
At the core of FunDza is their website. “The fundza.mobi website is the engine room of the organisation as it provides the connection between the content we create and the people we reach,” explains Mignon. “Without it, we wouldn’t be able to reach the SA youth and scale our social impact.”
FunDza chose a Self-Managed Server because their platform is custom-built according to their needs and they needed some non-standard software to manage the system. “A Self-Managed Server has been a great advantage to us,” says Mignon.
“We chose Hetzner because of their great reputation as a reliable hosting service provider. For us, up-time is critical and Hetzner has consistently delivered on this need.”