Familiar with the consequences of growing up without knowing how to read or write, Sibusiso Buthelezi decided to do his part to ensure children in his childhood neighbourhood don’t have to face the same challenges.
So he and Lindsay van der Byl embarked on the #CycleforChange Challenge last week to help children shield themselves from the harsh reality he experienced, one book at a time.
The two men spent the past 10 days on their bicycles, travelling from the Union Buildings in Pretoria over 1 500km to Cape Town. They had hoped to complete their trek today, but were delayed after Buthelezi hurt his knee and had to be admitted to hospital.
They are now waiting for the go-ahead from his doctor before they set off from the Karoo on the final stretch. This is the third year in a row that Buthelezi has tackled the journey. The library and IT administrator at St John’s College in Johannesburg hoped to raise one book for every kilometre he cycled.
The cycling challenge, which includes community workshops and talks, was envisioned with Van der Byl, a motivational speaker, mentor and entrepreneur, to encourage reading among children, especially in rural areas.
Buthelezi grew up in a small, rural village in KwaZulu-Natal where he walked 20 to 30km to school every day, often on an empty stomach.
“In school we didn’t have books and at home we didn’t have books, which slowed down our learning development.
“That is why people grow up not knowing how to read or write, especially in English. It was tough when my grandmother came home from her job in Johannesburg with books, and we would just look at the pictures because we couldn’t read.
“I always wanted to learn how to read as a young child but I couldn’t. Looking at where I was then and where I am now, I don’t want another child go through what I went through. I want to contribute to a culture of reading.”
Buthelezi said they were targeting rural areas and townships in all nine provinces where illiteracy rates were growing. He said these children did not have access to enough books and it was their mission to donate the books that they got from this challenge to their schools.
They were hoping to collect 4 000 or more books to give to schools in Alexandria, a small farming town in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Venda.
“Our goal is to give these children hope and contribute towards their growth and dreams.
“It is not easy to get help and a lot of children lose hope when they can’t get opportunities because they can’t read or write. So I want them to be empowered, independent and believe in their dreams with the help of books.”