Soweto’s local heroes inspring children to read

By Steve Tsakiris

In this day and age it is somewhat of a rarity to find people that are unconditionally committed to a cause without expectation of material reward. One such story is that of an amazing brother and sister team.
Nontokozo and Siphamandla Mncube were born and raised in Soweto, South Africa. Residents of the impoverished suburb, Zola, they volunteered as helpers for Read to Rise in February 2015. With great enthusiasm and generosity of spirit they began scouting schools in the area to find appropriate partners with which to carry out the expansion of the organisation’s youth literacy programme in the Gauteng Province. The target schools were in some of the most underprivileged areas of Soweto, including all 4 districts of Zola and the immediately surrounding areas: Naledi (where the 1976 riots took place), Emdeni, Tladi, and White City.

Soweto is an area with major socio-economic difficulties and many Quintile 1,2 and 3 schools, which are the poorest schools where learners cannot afford to pay any fees. Some parts of Soweto rank amongst the most impoverished areas in Johannesburg.
Read to Rise is a non-profit organisation that promotes youth literacy in under-resourced communities in South Africa. The organisation visits schools and have an interactive classroom session with the learners to inspire them to read. The learners also receive a brand new story book to take home. For many, this is the first book that they will own.

Nontokozo and Siphamandla not only provided invaluable knowledge of the local areas, but also displayed great skill with the children. As a mother of four,  Nontokozo has lots of experience, and her younger brother, 27 year old Siphamandla, has a natural affinity with children – he loves them and they love him!
The pair showed such great potential that Read to Rise offered them positions as Programme Assistants. Fifteen months down the line, they have presented the Programme at 18 different schools as well as a Day Care Centre, a teenage community centre, and an orphanage. They have also conducted sessions at a public park for children on their school holidays.

Well over a thousand children have benefitted from the interactive sessions in the classrooms. The brother and sister team continue to develop and are now able to run the classroom visits on their own; conducting sessions with Grade 3 and Grade 4 learners, teaching two different stories – OAKY AND THE SUN to Grade 3’s and OAKY THE HAPPY TREE to Grade 4’s. They also present each child with their own brand new OAKY book and each Grade 3 classroom with a mini-library consisting of 50 new age-appropriate reading books.

As Read to Rise expands, these two amazing individuals continue to inspire and encourage young learners in disadvantaged communities to not only gain a love for reading, but also to gain the confidence and self-respect necessary to rise above their difficult circumstances and the many challenges that they face, in order to become constructive members of society, and potentially go on to become future leaders of our country.

What a privilege it is to have these dedicated individuals on the staff of Read to Rise. They are great role models for our children and are rapidly becoming community leaders in their own right, helping to uplift the very area in which they live.

Nontokozo and Siphamandla Mncube truly are Soweto’s local heroes!

You can sponsor a new book for a child, for only R45 a book. For more information about Read to Rise, visit or email