Lali's passion for isiXhosa inspires a new generation in BCM

Hosting reading sessions for young children since 2017 is just one aspect of King William's Town-born radio presenter Lali Tokwe's passion for teaching children to read and speak their mother tongue.

So it's no surprise that the Umhlobo Wenene FM anchor published an isiXhosa children's book in 2019 in an effort to encourage young readers.

Tokwe's passion for children is also reflected in her day job hosting the children's radio show, Sakh’abantwana.

“I developed so much love for children while helping at the Children's Ministry at my church while growing up, and it just grew into this.”

After running her reading programme, Sinebali Bantwana for three years, Tokwe, 39, was inspired to write and publish a children's book, Nomkhitha Volume One.

From there her foundation, Nomkhitha, was established in January this year. The foundation aims to serve as a safe space where Tokwe interacts with children between the ages of five and 12 through literature and indigenous games to preserve the isiXhosa language.

Fifty children are registered for each session and enjoy a group reading session and other activities with Nomkhitha Foundation mentors.

“I really believe if a child grows up without knowing how to speak and write in his or her mother tongue that may have an impact on their identity. The presence and compatibility between one’s vernacular language and identity brings the completeness of a well-balanced human being out in a child,” said Tokwe.

Her weekly reading sessions are hosted in various venues in East London and King William’s Town, including the Windsor Cabanas Hotel, the Steve Biko Centre in Ginsberg and the Miriam Makeba Centre.

“I always look for a safe place for kids to just have fun, enjoy and be proud of their reading and learning their home language. The response from parents regarding the impact made by the kid’s sessions is the most rewarding thing,” said Tokwe.

Soso Dekeda, mom of two children who attend Tokwe's sessions, said the reading helped a great deal.

“I have an 11-year-old and a nine-year-old and they both struggle to speak isiXhosa sometimes. It's easy to fall back into English, I even struggle sometimes. I take them to Lali's classes because she reads so fluently and explains things so well,” said Dekeda.

“We've also bought her book. The isiXhosa she uses in there is complicated so I have to explain it to my kids sometimes, but it's really helped a lot. Its going to be tough now not being able to have these sessions as we go into lockdown.”

In addition to running her isiXhosa reading sessions Tokwe also initiated the His Purpose Women’s Ministry.

“His Purpose Women’s Ministry is an organisation with the aim of gathering women from all ages and backgrounds to inspire, transform, unite and empower them to unleash their fullest potential in every aspect of life,” Tokwe explained.

Through her organisation women are mentored in regular sessions as well as school visits and inspirational talks.

“We also donate sanitary towels to disadvantaged school girls especially those with special needs. We host women’s events and call other inspirational speakers to equip women in different areas of their lives,” Towke explained.

“As a born-again child of God, the start of the organisation was a call from God to gather women and have sessions from time to time with the aim of them being aligned to their divine purpose. I believe everyone is born for a purpose. To me this is a calling,” said Tokwe.

“I believe in impact. The impact these sessions has is a motivation enough to carry on with the project.”


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