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22 August 2018
Prof Coetzee is retelling old stories in a new book
"Failing to Learn Doomed to repeat" was one of the bookworks on display.

The title of Prof Jan K Coetzee’s latest book, Books & Bones & Other Things, says it all. The book looks into the many aspects that have built our society by presenting in a new way the stories contained in old books collected over the years. 

Prof Coetzee is a Senior Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of the Free State (UFS). Books & Bones & Other Things was launched on 14 August 2018 and coincided with an exhibition of various “bookworks”   art installations by Prof Coetzee that feature old books, sculptures, artefacts, and fossils.
 
Book resulting from research programme 
   

“This is a book on books so the library is the perfect venue to launch a book on old texts as documents of life,” said Prof Coetzee.

For the past seven years he has been directing a Master’s and PhD programme in Sociology called The Narrative Study of Lives. His project, Documents of Life, from which this book came, focuses on a collection of old texts the oldest of which dates back to 1605.

“We live in storytelling societies and for as long as we can remember we have been telling stories. Over time the ability to produce books was born. Any collection of books can tell you a lot about your own life and the society you live in."

“I cannot read the stories of many of these old books because their narratives are closed. I have to re-narrate the books, change the narrative convention and present them in a way that makes sense to me. By combining the books with art and artefacts I want the books to tell their ancient stories in new ways.”

Book launches and intellectual discussions

At the book launch, Prof Corli Witthuhn, Vice-Rector: Research said: “What we have achieved with this launch and exhibition is unbelievable. We always try to create an intellectual space in the library.

“A book such as this is the pinnacle of an academic career. It is multidisciplinary and it looks at the world in a different way. That is what scholarship is about.”

A painting by Robert Hodgins was also handed over to the Johannes Stegmann Gallery, home of the corporate collection of the UFS, at the event. 

News Archive

UFS researchers help find opportunities to create knowledge
2016-09-15

Description: Mobile libraries  Tags: Mobile libraries

The initiative hopes that the mobile libraries
will continue to contribute towards literature
awareness and access to books at rural
schools in the Free State.
Photo: Supplied

Did you know that only 3 392 primary schools in South Africa have libraries? In the Free State the statistics are shocking. Only 277 primary schools have libraries, while 1 087 carry on without them. One of nine provinces in South Africa, the Free State is regarded as a rural province. The South African Primary Education Support Initiative (SAPESI), in partnership with other sponsors, has committed to expanding access to books by donating mobile libraries to service schools across South Africa. In the Free State, the project is embraced by the Free State Department of Education, which employs the mobile operators and library assistants to service these libraries, driving many kilometres of gravel road to visit remote farm schools and other under-resourced schools. SAPESI has set a goal to supply 75 mobile libraries to provide 2 000 schools with access to books by the year 2020.

Discovering the value of the mobile libraries
Although the mobile libraries in the Free State have been functioning since 2007, no formal research had been conducted on their work. Towards the end of 2014, the Free State Department of Education and the Flemish Association for Development Cooperation and Technical Assistance (VVOB) commissioned the UFS to carry out a participatory action research project. Dr Lynette Jacobs, Head of the School of Education Studies at the University of the Free State’s Faculty of Education and her team engaged with role-players at district and provincial level in a Participatory Action Research project.

The research project aimed to describe the work that mobile libraries do, and appraise its influence on learners and schools, towards improving their functionality. In addition, this project aimed to build research capacity within the district teacher development centres.

Highlights of the mobile library project
The way the Free State Department of Education embraced and supported the initiative by Mr Tad Hasunuma and SAPESI, was inspiring. Each of the five education districts has two fully equipped library buses that periodically visit schools. The stock on the buses is regularly replaced by books that SAPESI receives from the international community. Specific books are also loaded for teachers to use as resources. One of the outcomes of the research project was that guidelines were developed for teachers on how to use books in addition to curriculum material in the classroom. At district level, the teams reflected on the work that they were doing and implemented improvement plans to provide an even better service. Findings of the project were presented at the XIV Annual International Conference of the Bulgarian Comparative Education Society that focused on education provision earlier this year. It was lauded by representatives of the international education community as an example of good practice to provide education to marginalised children.

Reading helps enrich children’s lives
The research project concluded by stating that the aim of the mobile libraries was to provide learners and teachers at rural and farm schools with reading books, and they were doing as best they could. While the mobile libraries cannot make up for possible challenges related to teaching and learning or in infrastructure, the learners and the teachers are regularly provided with good resources to encourage reading and stimulate literacy development.

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