BETHAL – The Department of Correctional Services, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West region hosted the annual three-day reading competition for offenders, called Funda Mzantsi, at Bethal Correctional Center recently.
The project is led by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) in partnership with the South African National Library’s Centre for Books as part of instilling the culture of learning, reading and writing amongst the inmates.
About 85 men and women offenders belonging to four book clubs in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West, competed against each other in all 11 official languages in book reading, story telling, book reviewing, debate and spelling BEE.
On the first day of the championship, the inmates, adjudicators and officials converged at an opening ceremony where they were welcomed by the Area Coordinator Development and Care, Dominique Zulu and the Head of Bethal Correctional Centre, Enock Chonco.
Ms Tebello Mahlangu, The Regional Coordinator Education and Training, praised the inmates for their participation and outlined the background of the project.
“The Funda Mzantsi Project was initiated by Western Cape schools and later partnered with DCS, George Municipality and the South African Library Association Centre for Books.
“The project was subsequently rolled out nationally to other DCS regions over the past eight years.”
Ms Mahlangu advised the participants to be confident and to debate the topics with conviction.
The six division team dispersed to the allocated venues where they battled for a selection spot of 40 offenders who will represent the region at the National Championships in George in October.
The adjudicators had their work cut out during the three days as they judged the inmates according to accuracy, fluency, spelling and pronunciation in their various languages.
An award ceremony marked the last day of the championship where the 40 participants were announced.
The ceremony was graced by the LMN acting Regional Commissioner Phiko Mbambo and the Area Commissioner of Bethal Management Area, Sunnyboy Mndawe, to support the competing inmates.
Mr Mndawe said that the project is close to his heart because he has been involved with it since its inception.
“It is a fulfilling feeling to see something which started very small grow into what it has become today. I am proud and fortunate to have witnessed this project grow from strength to strength.”
“After the winners were announced, the acting Regional Commissioner addressed the gathering and said that Funda Mzantsi supports rehabilitation, one of the core mandates of the department.
“As a region we observed an increase in our pass rate percentage after the introduction of this programme.”
Mr Mbambo said the rehabilitation approach in DCS affords offenders opportunities to enhance their educational background and skills development.
He encouraged all 85 participants to continue to empower themselves by reading books and he also challenged the selected 40 to win all trophies in George.
He thanked all officials and the adjudicators for making the LMN Funda Mzantsi championships a success.