Monday, 1 July 2013

Nal'ibali Reading Club

In the Xhosa language of South Africa, the word Nal'ibali means
"it begins with a story"...

In fact it begins, first of all, with a school: the Get Ahead college in Queenstown, in the Eastern Cape Province, not far from Cradock. This is one of three Get Ahead Project (GAP) schools in the area sponsored by the Leacock Foundation for Children, a not-for-profit organisation started by Peter Oliver, a South African entrepreneur who now lives in Canada. The Foundation's mission is to inspire and empower youth in need, through education and leadership opportunities. A meeting with Nelson Mandela in Toronto some years ago alerted Peter to the educational needs in the Eastern Cape, and the Foundation extended its interest from Canada to rural South Africa. You can find out more about their wonderful work at
Queenstown's GAP college now has 400 secondary school pupils, and is a beacon of hope in the area for many children.

In order to foster a culture of reading at the school, an inspirational Canadian teacher, on assignment there for 6 months, decided to start a reading club. Thus was Nal'ibali born in May of this year. But it required sponsorship to buy the books that the students were to read. For many, this would be their first experience of reading a full length book. In stepped the Scarborough East York Reading Association in Toronto. They generously donated $1000 Canadian to launch the club and acquire its first books. But the story goes further: Branksome Hall, an independent girls school in Toronto, has been a strong supporter of the GAP schools for the past ten years, not only by raising funds but also by developing close ties between the schools and their students. Most recently, Branksome Hall embarked on an initiative to introduce students to the latest technology, by raising funds to donate 40 new KOBO e-readers to the school. It will be extraordinary to see the effect that these new projects have on the students.

And to my delight and honour, the first book chosen for the Nal'bali Book Club to read was The Housemaid's Daughter. Here is a picture of Manve and Chumile enjoying their copies. From small beginnings...


  1. Dear Get Ahead Learners:
    It is with great excitement that am reading about you and your Nal'ibali Book Club.
    The last time I was at Get Ahead College was for Winter School two years ago. It was my fourth trip to Get Ahead and each time I was sad about the lack of reading material but inspired by your thirst for books. I am so glad that you, your teachers and the Canadian connections you have made have led to the birth of this wonderful club.
    I know you are on mid-term break at the moment but I wait, with great anticipation, to read what you write in this blog about all the amazing reading your did over the holidays, your reaction to what you read and the questions about life and the world that reading has inspired in you.
    Keep those pages turning!!
    Judy Mac

  2. Thank you, Judy! I have been so thrilled to know that my book has been chosen to be part of the Nal'ibali Book Club!I hope to meet some of the students when I am in Cradock in August, speaking at the Schreiner Festival. I think that they might be coming across from Queenstown.
    Best wishes

  3. Dear Barbara Mutch
    I am a student at Get Ahead College and a proud member of the Nal'Ibali member and I want to say it was such a honor to say I have read and enjoyed your book, 'The Housemaids Daughter' as I cried at the sad parts and laughed at the funny parts and I just want to say thank you for this book and I cannot wait to read more of your books and meet you in Cradock in August, thank you for this lovely book
    Thank you
    Khanyisa Ndzala

  4. Dear Barbara Mutch :
    Hello!!! :) It is indeed an honour to be a member of the Nal'bali Book club. I am a proud student of Get Ahead College and currently in 10th Grade. When we first heard about your book Housemaid's daughter we were very excited to finally have a book to indulge in since my friends in the book club and I have a great passion for reading.It would indeed be a great pleasure to meet you in Cradock this August for we sure do have A LOT of questions to ask you. The first time I read Housemaid's daughter I was taken out of this world, its trully amazing to read a book and imagine how the characters look like,the setting and to go through the emotional journey of Ada and Miss Cathreen. I could write a long list to describe my experience through the whole book but that would be quite an extremely long list.The Book was Mesmerising,Indulging, Witty,Heart-Breaking, An Out of this world creation, yes there were some Sad,Shocking even Fuuny parts but most importantly it was Inspiring. It took me to a whole new level, changing my imagination and point of view about South Africa during those times.It really felt like I was there! Wow!
    Thank you for being an amazing writer.
    Keep inspiring and I hope to read more books from you in the future.
    Nal'ibali Member and GAC student.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Dear readers,
      I removed the comment myself to edit it. It is thus reposted below.

  6. Dear Barbara,

    You have no I dear how "The House Maid's daughter" touched mi heart. I couldn't find fiction in it! It's reality all through. Trust me, what was mentioned there happened in many parts of the country; and is still happening. Oh, I pity poor Ada!

    The Nal'ibali Readers' Club can't to wait see you at Olive Schreiners festival. Thanks to Miss Cassidy for all the support towards this trip to Cradock.

    Barbara, How long did it take you to come up with such a wonderful story?

    The Nal'ibali is thinking of writing a simple play based on your story. Hope you will advise them; besides giving them the permission.

  7. Never have i read such an inspiring yet heartfelt novel. The book Housemaids Daughter actully gave me another pespective of how some people from around the Eastern Cape were struggling during the years of people judging each other just because of the difference in skin. Mrs. Mutch i truly enjoyed reading your novel and i look forward to actually seeing you face to face on friday as we "The Nalibali" book club will get the opportunity of seeing you. I also have some few question that i will be asking you and i hope i'll get a chance to interact with you regarding the questions i'll be asking you. Thank you very much for taking some time of your own to have actually written a book that filled tears into my eyes but also the times that made me proud for who i am today.

  8. Dear Barbara,

    I would like to thank you for giving us an oppurtunity to meet up with you in Cradock, on the 9th of August. the Nal'bali book club we are so excited to meet up with you and so eager to ask questions about the book.

    It was the first book that the Nal'bali read since the Nali'bali was only created this year. We were very lucky to meet Ms. Cassidy to tell us about the book and sponser us on our road trip to meet up with you.

    We have never felt the exprience of reading a book and it being able to take us to were the setting is, in ths case Cradock. I really think the Nal'bali have learnt a lot from the novel. We were able to put our shoes in the characters shoes and imagine what it was going to be if we were in that situation.

    We all loved Young Mr. Phil and all pictured ourselves being Ada, and when Dawn was born we all fell in love with her. Let's just say loved her blue eyes.

    The Nal'bali book still has few learners and most are girls. I think by motivating them to read your book will actually make them want to join the book club, and also get the chance to meet up with amazing authors just like you.

    thank you again
    Lwando Nene(chairperson of the book club)
    Get Ahead student

    1. Thank you to all of you who have sent me such kind messages!
      It was a pleasure to meet you in Cradock, and I wish you lots of luck and success for the future.
      Remember to keep reading - it will help you in whatever you decide to do with your lives!
      Kind regards