New book helps kids in informal settlements navigate virus

A Johannesburg illustrator and writer has produced a new children’s book on Covid-19 with a difference.

Of all the dozens of books produced around the world, Nathi Ngubane’s book tells the story of Covid-19 through the eyes of children living in informal settlements.

Duma Says is an educational book series written and illustrated by Durban-born Ngubane and produced by the experimental Social Bandit Media, based in Johannesburg and New York.

The series is about the adventures of 10-year-old Duma, his sister Zihle and their friends, as they try to find their way during this pandemic.

In Book 1, Duma Says: Wash Your Hands, Wear a Mask!, the duo notice that many in the area are not wearing masks, so they hatch a plan to try to protect their community.

The book, which will be free to download, has already been widely welcomed. The department of health placed both the English and isiZulu version on their Covid-19 resource portal, while New York City’s School library system added the book to its list of free international Covid-19 resources for children.

The book has also been translated into isiXhosa.

Talking to DispatchLIVE, Ngubane, 30, said though he had always wanted to produce a children’s book, this moment was the perfect time to do so.

“This was my opportunity to not only write my first children’s book, but to also write something that will be meaningful, and help educate children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds in SA and throughout Africa.

“These books are for children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and for those coming from more privileged areas.

“Well-off children need to also learn about the lives of children less fortunate than them,” Ngubane said.

Azad Essa, journalist and founder of Social Bandit Media, the experimental media company behind the book, said the book series was special because it centred on communities usually erased from children’s literature.

“Whereas most material has focused on explaining the virus or presenting children as superheroes, we wanted to produce a book that would show how the majority are facing Covid-19 along with other economic and health issues.”

Essa said while the digital version would be free, a small batch of paperbacks would be made available for sale to select independent stores around the country. For international buyers, the book will be on Amazon.

All proceeds will go to Open Air School in Durban, where Ngubane matriculated, Essa said.

To access the book, click here

The duo are running a crowdfunding campaign to pay for the book.

To support the effort, click here. — DDR

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