These car brands have rallied to accelerate literacy in South Africa

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School children excited by the new books donated by Ford South Africa in partnership with Rally to Read.
School children excited by the new books donated by Ford South Africa in partnership with Rally to Read.
  • Rally to Read has been running for 25 years and has supported over 650 000 pupils.
  • Renault, Ford and Mercedes-Benz make a big difference to pupils.
  • This year's Rally to Read incorporated more digital-based learning material. 
  • GOOD NEWS DAY IS BACK! News24 celebrates the people restoring pride in our country. Read their stories here

While they are fierce competitors on the road, Mercedes-Benz, Renault, and Ford joined forces for the annual Rally to Read initiative, which took place in recent weeks. Each automaker contributed generously towards this popular cause through donations, vehicle partnerships, or establishing modern and vibrant libraries. 

There is an adage that captures the fundamental importance of reading in a nutshell: "At a young age, children learn to read, and as they get older, they read to learn." While this seems straightforward and achievable, schools in South Africa's poorer communities have been unable to meet these basic requirements.

Statistics in 2017 revealed that 78% of South African pupils could not read by the age of 10. Further statistics published by the Western Cape government in 2022 show that nearly 60% of households do not own a book for leisure reading, only 14% of the population reads for pleasure, and only 5% of adults read to their children. 

Learner reading to CEO and Executive director of M
Learner reading to CEO and Executive director of MBSA Andreas Brand.

Over the past 25 years, almost 650 000 pupils have been the beneficiaries of Rally to Read, which incorporates more digital material this year.

The Sivuleleni Primary School in Soweto was the latest beneficiary of Renault's march towards free and widespread literacy. This primary school provides teaching to over 500 children who, for the first time, have access to a modern library stocked with over 8 000 books! The funding provided by Renault, in conjunction with the Imperial Motus Trust, allows a dedicated librarian to assist them and oversee library management. 

"At Renault, we believe that no child should be left behind," said Sithabile Maphumulo, Renault South Africa's marketing director, speaking at the handover. 

"We're proud to have partnered with the Motus Imperial Trust, which has established 67 libraries in schools since its inception in 2003, to bring this library to Sivuleleni. We hope it will open the doors of learning for all the children who attend this school." 

Renault South Africa has donated the second of two
Renault South Africa has donated the second of two fully-equipped mini libraries that have been specially designed for use in junior schools in underprivileged areas.

Further south, in Gqeberha, Ford South Africa once again stepped in to empower the youth in communities neighbouring the recently-upgraded engine manufacturing plant in Struandale. Ford's participation with Rally to Read dates back to 1999 and is estimated to have benefitted around 4 085 pupils and 124 teachers at eight Nelson Mandela Bay metro schools. This year Ford Motor Company donated R1.36 million to the READ Educational Trust and put the all-new Ranger Single Cab to the charitable test by transporting the material between schools.

"We are delighted to once again support the amazing work that Rally to Read does across the country, and it is wonderful to focus on Nelson Mandela Bay, where Ford SA's legacy started in 1923 and where our Struandale Engine Plant is located in Gqeberha," said Neale Hill, Ford Motor Company Africa's president.

"With South Africa's high levels of poverty and unemployment, the most important tools we have to empower and uplift the country's people are education and literacy. 

Rally to Read
Rally to Read

"Youth unemployment is one of South Africa's most serious challenges, and our involvement with READ Educational Trust and the Rally to Read plays an important role in our efforts to tackle these issues head-on," added Hill.

The rural areas of John Biseaker Circuit and Buffalo City Municipality in the Eastern Cape significantly boosted their literacy programme thanks to a donation of R3 million made by Mercedes-Benz. 

Investment into the Eastern Cape remains crucial for Mercedes-Benz because the manufacturing of models like the latest C-Class is completed there for local and export markets. Assisting with literacy and learning education in the area will reap positive rewards in nurturing careers within the automotive sector.

This donation goes towards tablets and digital literacy workshops, keeping to this year's theme of supplementing literacy material with digital resources.

"As a good corporate citizen, we want to contribute to the sustainable development of education and skills development. To this end, Mercedes-Benz South Africa is proud to be a part of the Rally to Read initiative as a testament to our commitment to education and the youth today, tomorrow and in the future," said Andreas Brand, chief executive officer of Mercedes-South Africa and executive director of manufacturing.

Rally to Read continues to go from strength to strength. More information about this incredible programme can be found on their website here

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