The story of the library at Petunia Primary

Petunia Primary is located in Scottsville, a suburb of Kraaifontein outside Cape Town. In this community, children experience the effects of poverty: drug abuse, gang violence and a lack of educational opportunities. The nearest public library is not within walking distance for young children.

In February 2011 the library at Petunia Primary opened its doors.

But the story begins in 2005 when I, Thérèse, worked at Petunia Primary as a volunteer school counsellor and post graduate researcher.  As I witnessed the hardship that the children endured,  I remembered the opportunities of my own middle class childhood. I revisited memories of regular trips as a child with my mother to the hushed wonderland of our local municipal library. A library became a connection with the infinite possibility of words and images - worlds beyond my own suburban existence. So it came about that I wanted to pass on something of the wonder of books that I had experienced as a child.

In February 2011, we opened the doors to the library at Petunia Primary. Friends and acquaintances donated time and energy to the project. With book donations from Biblionef, Vriende van Afrikaans, Cecile Cilliers, Mary-Anne Hoogenhout and Louise Viljoen, the library was soon turned into a vibrant book haven.

Warmhearted local resident, Karin Hendricks, was appointed as our part-time librarian.

Upon entering the library one experiences a welcoming spirit. This is due in no small part to the role of the twenty young volunteers from the school. These twelve and thirteen year-olds help Karin with anything from cleaning and administrative tasks, to assisting younger children to choose age appropriate books to read.  During a recent World Literacy Day celebration in the library, I honored their contributions towards literacy development at the school. In this way the library affords young people an opportunity to experience agency and practice servant leadership.

Over the past two years, foundation phase teachers at the school have presented various reading-based workshops in the library to parents and grandparents. In this way these adults are  introduced to the library and are involved in the development of a broader culture of reading in the community.

Today, two thirds of the school’s more than 700 learners are active members of the library.  According to the staff at the school, literacy levels have improved dramatically. 

The library depends for its existence on the the support of the Friends of Petunia’s Library. All funding and donations received go directly into either Karin’s small salary, books or projects to benefit children.

How you can help us:

A few friends have made Petunia Primary in Scottsville their beneficiary of Woolworths’ My School Card.  The address of the school is: Petunia Street, 7570 Scottsville, Kraaifontein. Tel: 021 988 4914. The principal is mr Yon. Funds that are generated this way, go towards the purchasing of books. Recently we had to purchase more English books for the growing number of English speaking children in the school, many of whom come from the informal settlements of Bloekombos and Wallacedene. Please let me know once Petunia has been registered as your My School Card beneficiary.

Donations: Afrikaans and English book donations. We are always in need of quality books for all age groups.Recently more older Afrikaans speaking boys have started taking out books - a trend we want to actively encourage by acquiring books they will love! Donations of hand puppets, board games, puzzles and magazines are also welcomed.

Skills and talents: Please let us know what skills and talents you can contribute. We are always looking for people to assist with administrative tasks and bookbinding, or to take a story-time hour in the library - for children of different ages. We invite you to help to develop Petunia’s stories of hope and possibility in your own unique way.