Research

Improving reading and writing, one Bee at a time

Unisan Marcia Lebambo been chosen as one of News24’s 100 young Mandelas of the future (row 9, no 8). In their citation, the News24 team said that they were inspired by her unbelievable efforts to make a difference in the lives of others and her persistence to achieve her dreams against all odds. “You truly embody the spirit of what Tata Madiba stood for and make us all proud to be South Africans with the leadership, creativity, resilience, vision, and compassion you show.”

She is thrilled by the recognition and says that it is an honour to be among the 100 Mandelas of the future. “More still needs to be done to make South Africa a better place,” she cautions, “but this is a good start.”

The 30-year-old lecturer in the Department of Entrepreneurship, Supply Chain, Transport, Tourism, and Logistics Management (DESSTIL) founded the Marcia Lebambo Foundation in 2012 as a non-profit organisation aimed at empowering learners by creating a culture of reading and writing through various programmes such as a Spelling Bee competition.

In the competition, contestants are asked to spell a broad selection of words with a varying degree of difficulty. This is a comprehensive learning process that allows children to learn the definition, pronunciation, and roots of the words. Learning grammar is not the only benefit; learners are able to enhance vocabulary, competitive spirit, greater knowledge, cognitive skills and confidence.

Marcia Lebambo appeared live on TV on the SABC Youth Show YOTV on Nelson Mandela Day to share her work and celebrate Mandela 100 with the youth.

Recent reports on the state of basic education in South Africa reveal that eight out of 10 learners in grade 4 cannot read, says Lebambo. “Furthermore, the Progress in International Reading Literary Study placed South Africa at 50, which is the last number in literacy rate. That on its own signals a crisis which needs everyone’s involvement. I believe that the continuous improvement of the quality of education in South Africa, especially schools in the rural areas and townships, is the responsibility of every citizen. And through out-of-classroom programmes such as the Spelling Bee, reading and writing can be improved.”

Lebambo’s passion is education empowerment for the marginalised. Other programmes conducted by her organisation include book clubs, storytelling societies, and school motivations.

And just recently she has added youth entrepreneurship. “We use a competition called LearnerPreneur Pitch Drive, where learners are given the opportunity to pitch their entrepreneurial ideas for an opportunity to receive mentorship from industry experts,” enthuses Lebambo. “This is a way of encouraging youth entrepreneurship, which is vital in the quest of reducing the socio-economic challenges facing Africa, such as unemployment, poverty, and inequality.”

Lesotho, June 2018

The organisation has interacted with more than 4 000 learners from all over the country. A team of 23 volunteers, who assist by visiting schools and networking with learners prior to the competition, leads this initiative. Last year, the organisation also hosted learners from Lesotho and Zimbabwe. This year, the organisation has been invited by the people of Lesotho to host the spelling competition in Maseru.

As Nelson Mandela said: “There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to helping others without expecting anything in return.”

You can follow Marcia Lebambo on Twitter here.

*Compiled by Sharon Farrell