Devi Pakkiri is well known in Zimbabwean literary circles. A small but passionate powerhouse she’s a fervent advocate of getting Zimbabweans reading again. She’s been instrumental in getting the Harare City Library pulled back from the brink as well as promoting and supporting our once flourishing neighbourhood libraries – like the Mabelreign library and the Greendale library which were on the edge of closing down permanently. She’s also a founder and very active member of the Women’s Action Group in Zimbabwe.
Her newest project is called Zimbabwe Reads, which is aimed at restoring a culture of literacy across all social strata. Zimbabwe used to have a very proud record of educational excellence, although the current and on-going economic hardships have forced many people to ignore reading as an essential part of daily living in their fight for food, rent, school fees and the general grind of eking out the most basic survival. Pakkiri fervently believes that reading can inform and entertain, as well as being a valuable tool for uplifting the most vulnerable members of our diverse society.
Although the Zimbabwe Reads programme will eventually fall under the auspices of the Rokpa Support Network it will initially need to be self funding and self supporting. She has a vision of a DVD film club where members will pay a small membership fee and then enjoy watching a selection of films and videos which will be talked about and evaluated afterwards in a social networking group. The initial membership fee could be a modest amount – say around $10.00 – and there would be a fee of $5.00 per person per screening. To start with films would be shown at the meeting room at Rokpa Support Network (RSN) at Quendon Road in Monavale. The money raised from the film screenings would go to support book clubs in less privileged areas like Chitungwiza, Hatcliffe, Epworth and Budiriro.
Pakkiri has identified a hunger for reading material – from serious novels to non-fiction informative works, and from magazines like National Geographic to newspapers. She has recognised the fact that many children, particularly young girls, are being forced to drop out of school early. For many, leaving school means an abrupt end to reading, whether for entertainment or information. This perpetuates a vicious cycle of un- and under- employment which will plague Zimbabwean society for many generations.
Pakkiri envisages a kind of book club network whereby members will have access to a collection of books which will be up for discussion among the group. An informal experimental group has already been set up by RSN in Chitungwiza. A kind of day care centre has been established for the parents of children living with disabilities so parents can share the responsibilities of looking after these children, affording some parents free time to go to work or attend to necessary chores. There parents can read to the children, and to each other, at the same time improving both adult and child literacy. They can also share information about issues like low impact permaculture gardening to help support food security, as well social issues like HIV and drug abuse.
To find out more, to support this project, or to donate books and magazines, contact Rokpa at 34 Quendon Road in Monavale (opposite the Italian Club), email ROKPA Support Network ZIMBABWE [firstname.lastname@example.org], or call 04 33 2836.