Closing the book on 2018:

A year of significant achievements

Insights from Nali’bali executive team


Jade Jacobsohn

Managing Director

At Nal’ibali we believe in Story Power. The power of stories to ignite a child’s imagination and urge small fingers to turn the page so that they can find out what happens next. The power of stories to switch off a television set so that a caregiver and child can snuggle in and bond over a book. The power of stories to light up a teacher’s face and voice as she uses the greatest educational tool available to her – the natural curiosity of the children in her class. The power of stories to place the reader in the shoes of the protagonist as they zoom through a life entirely different from their own, building empathy line by line.

Stories are so powerful in fact acclaimed author Yuval Noah Hariri has argued that our ability to tell them may well have tipped the evolutionary scales in our favour. He wrote that “without an ability to compose fiction, the Neanderthals were unable to cooperate effectively in large numbers, nor could they adapt their social behaviour to rapidly changing challenges… The truly unique trait of 'Sapiens',” he continues, “is our ability to create and believe fiction. All other animals use their communication system to describe reality. We use our communication system to create new realities.”

2018 was another year of seeing the Nal’ibali campaign blossom. Nal’ibali uses the power of stories to grow a love for reading. We are only able to do this because so many of us believe in Story Power; that stories can shape a future in South Africa that is better than our past. My personal thanks to the support of our spirited team, our inspiring FUNda Leaders, our passionate partners, our big-picture funders, and of course our ever-encouraging trustees. May we continue to work together to build a Story Powered Nation!

Thabiso Madiba CA(SA)


In December 2017 it was reported that, “South Africa was placed last out of 50 countries in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) which included nearly 320‚000 children globally. The survey also found that reading scores have not improved since 2011.”

These alarming statistics confirm the critical importance of the work done by the Nal’ibali read-for-enjoyment campaign. Nal’ibali promotes the importance and joy  of reading with children in South Africa, through enabling fun and meaningful opportunities for children to enjoy stories and books in their home languages.

In the six years that Nal’ibali has been in existence, significant progress has been made in their reach. The scale of these touch points and interactions with South Africans is highlighted through a variety of literacy interventions, one of which reached over 1 million children who were read aloud to on World Read Aloud Day on 1 February 2018.

I am proud of the work that the Nal’ibali team has done and continues to do, and I hope both the public and private sectors will recognise the importance of what the Nal’ibali campaign seeks to achieve, and find ways in which to partner with Nal’ibali to reach all South Africans.

Saleem Mukuddem

Chief Financial Officer - CFO

2018 was a year of significant growth for Nal’ibali.

  • Revenue (including interest) increased by 36% to R74.7m which was roughly matched by operating expenses which rose 34% to R73.3m.
  • Revenue included a grant of R15m from a new funder, First Rand Empowerment Foundation.
  • Total comprehensive income for the year increased by 330% to R1.4m.
  • Total assets increased by 21% to R33.6m.
  • Total liabilities increased by 16% to R 31.1m.
  • Nal’ibali received an unqualified audit report for the year ended 31 December 2017.
  • Received favourable reports following system audits by two of its funders.

During 2018, Nal’ibali entered into a partnership with the University of Johannesburg Accounting Faculty (UJAF) whereby the university would perform internal audit services. The first audit took place in June 2018.The leadership of Nal’ibali is constantly looking to strengthening its internal control systems.

Katie Huston

Head of Research & Innovation

Our vision is to be a ground-breaking NGO in the use and analysis of rich data to inform strategy and decisions. We made huge progress towards this goal in 2018. We commissioned an external evaluation of the Nal’ibali supplement and conducted two major call centre surveys from our internal call centre. The results from the external evaluation and survey showed that two-thirds of reading clubs we originally reached are still operational and that our multilingual newspaper supplement has encouraged a high incidence of reading habits - which is one of our core objectives. The data collected also highlighted areas that can be improved on, and the type of support needed by reading clubs. These insights have helped us to better plan and budget for 2019 and beyond.

Este Buchholz

Head of Support Services

The highlight for 2018 was the opening of the Johannesburg office in September. We also implemented major upgrades to our IT and telecommunications systems at all our existing offices. We installed internet-based (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phones in all our offices, which has resulted in cost cutting as internal calls can be made at no cost, and external calls are significantly cheaper than fixed line calling through Telkom. During the year all field staff were equipped with cellular phones for work. This was made possible by the savings achieved from changing existing cellular data services from pay-as-you-go to monthly data contracts. The end result has been employees getting more data than in previous years, at overall lower cost to Nal’ibali. Towards the end of 2018, PANDA security software was installed on all Nal’ibali networks to improve security and IT support response, in preparation for the implementation of national legislation on the Protection of Personal Information (POPIA).

At the start of 2018 Nal’ibali joined the Old Mutual Superfund which afforded all employees the opportunity to join a provident fund and have access to group life insurance, disability and a funeral policy. A staff wellness programme, run by ICAS, was rolled out in September. All employees and their immediate families can use the service which provides telephonic counselling, financial advice, legal guidance and a range of other support services. The HR department managed the recruitment of 60+ vacancies, most of which were new roles created as part of Nal’ibali’s growth plan. A twice-yearly performance appraisal process was also implemented.

Ben Rycroft

Head of Communications

A major goal for Communications in 2018 was to increase brand awareness and to encourage increased access to our free resources. We modernised our logo and branding and launched a large-scale, mass-media campaign to increase awareness of both the Nal’ibali brand and its core message. The bulk of these efforts, including a brand building radio awareness campaign, flighting in our four focus provinces. A significant highlight was our World Read Aloud Day event in February, when Nal’ibali mobilised South Africans to read aloud to almost 1.3 million people on the same day. This achievement exceeded our targeted audience of 1 million, and it showed an 80% participation increase from the previous year. We also doubled our target of new website users in 2018 and website traffic to the “stories” section of the website grew eightfold.

Nompumelelo Prusent

Head of Programmes

2018 was an extremely busy year for the Nali’bali programmes team and we are pleased to have achieved the following:

  • streamlined our partnership model which enabled us to work more strategically with our partners,
  • trained a total of 7027 individuals in 168 organisations,
  • registered 140 995 children in active reading clubs across South Africa.

On a macro community level, a total of 871 schools now have a “Nal’ibali footprint,” which equates to more than 4% of all primary schools in the country. Nal’ibali cannot spread the love and passion for reading across South Africa alone, which is why one of our key strategies for 2018 and 2019 is to work with likeminded individuals and organisations to help promote reading to South African children.

Vanashree Pinto

Head of Content & Learning

Nali’bali’s Content and Learning department became operational at the start of 2019. The department is an amalgamation of the training and curriculum development functions in the organisation. The department supports Programmes, Research and Innovation and Communications teams through training, mentoring, support and materials development.

The team consists of three master trainers, a multilingual curriculum specialist and a Head of Department. All training, mentoring and support of Nal’ibali’s programme implementers is managed and coordinated by the Training team at a national level. Nal’ibali’s multilingual newspaper supplement and content for marketing and communications is developed by the Curriculum development team. Skills development and organisational learning forms part of the department’s mandate, and growth and learning for all staff stands at the foundation of the department.


Nali'bali breaks literacy barriers in its target provinces

We identified that almost half of SA’s children live in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo combined and a further 20% of the country’s children live in Gauteng. We proactively target areas with the highest child populations with the intention to reach a tipping point in these areas.



Nali'bali's 'deep dive' into KZN reveals exciting opportunities

Our KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Support Coordinator and Literacy Mentors share some highlights, challenges and lessons from our 2018 partnership approach.


An independent evaluation of Nali'bali's supplement demonstrates its significant value to South Africans

Nal’ibali commissioned JET Education Services (JET) to undertake a formal evaluation into the effectiveness of our multilingual newspaper supplement.



Nali'bali launches its supplement in two additional indigenous languages

In 2018, we launched our supplement in both Setswana and Xitsonga. We now offer our supplement in 8 of 11 South African languages.


Nali'bali establishes partnerships with other child developmental support organisations

In 2018, we looked to strengthen partnerships with organisations that support the needs of children that fall outside of our remit but are critical to children’s wellbeing. Although we established some local level partnerships with complementary organisations, we continue to largely attract partners within the education sector.



Nali'bali re-defines support packages for their “Story Powered Spaces”

During 2018, what started out as a plan to differentiate our packages according to each of our different “spaces,” became an opportunity to create communities of practice between stakeholders who worked in different spaces, within the same region.


A closer look at the Nali'bali model through the lens of behavioural science

In August 2018, an external research consultancy, GMT+ conducted a review of Nal’ibali’s programmes through the lens of behavioural science.



Nali'bali launches a national mass media campaign

Following our successful 2014/2015 billboard campaign, Nal’ibali launched another large-scale media campaign to increase brand awareness and visibility our core messages.


Nali'bali creates a communication and support network amongst FUNda leaders

In 2018, we worked hard to identify “FUNda Leaders” as literacy activists and thought leaders.



2019 Opens the book to a year of opportunities

Most significant change stories

Story Powered Schools campaign

“Ngingcelisa ulwazi (Breastfeeding Knowledge)”

Balungile Ngema, Ilembe SS 2018

My name is Balungile Ngema from Ilembe District. When I arrived at Nal’ibali, I didn’t have an interest in reading, but I’m currently studying for Diploma in education. I used to only read for my assignments and to just pass and finish my diploma. Being with Nal’ibali has helped and nourished my mind. I’m now reading for understanding not reading to get qualifications. I graduated this year and it was easy to study.

I was fortunate because my diploma is based on foundation phase and I will be working with children so being in reading clubs has been very helpful. I’m also a mother of twins, who are ten years old and they are currently in Grade 5. I used to only do home works and I didn’t have much time for them. When I was home, I didn’t have time to read them, but since I joined Nal’ibali there is a reading time at home, and I read for them twice a day.

Since we have adopted the reading culture, I have noticed some improvements but also learnt the kinds of the books that they love to read. I’ve noticed that the other twin loves the book narrates about history of South Africa, because she has shared the story about Winnie Mandela. She read my cousin’s grade 11 book and that’s where she learnt about Winnie Mandela. When she comes across words that she doesn’t understand, she will ask me for their meaning. So being at Nal’ibali has really influenced the culture of reading in my home and the twins now have the journals where they record the books that they have read. They have set themselves a goal to record the number of goods they’ve read till they reach grade 11.

They have learnt that when mom is studying, we should also read our books. I’m very happy, because I’m 30 years old this year and I’ve bought myself a book for a the very first time. I bought a book called “A rose that grew from a concrete” written by a local author Sibonga Dlomo. It was an interesting book and I read it in one day. It is now displayed at home and that’s my first book at the age of 30. Nal’ibali has really helped a lot, so that’s my story.

“What’s my story, what’s my destiny?”

Lindiwe Sangweni, Ilembe SS 2018

Before I joined Nal’ibali, I had lost hope in life and I ignored the things that I was passionate about. I used to be a reader, I enjoyed reading and drawing. I saw a Nal’ibali post and I applied. I remember my mom said one thing, she said if the job is meant for me, I will get it, so I mustn’t feel bad if I don’t get the job, because that will mean, it wasn’t meant for you.

Little did I know that I will get the job, little did I know that it will change my life. Through working for Nal’ibali, certain parts of my life got sparked and the passion was revitalised, and my purpose was also set. I started reading again, there was a book that really gave me courage, the book called African Myths and Tales, In the book, there was a story called the Python and Phenom. I love reading and there are times when I get spiritually involved with the book. I then realised the message behind the book, and I was impressed.

I started imagining how it could be and what will that be if children were to read books about preserving history and African spirituality. After that story I started asking myself, “why am I not writing stories?” I got myself a laptop and I started gathering books with African stories, I also downloaded Adobe creative scripts for digital stories. I started writing children stories, I’m currently working on children coloring books using my art skills. I’m now serving my purpose, because I have learnt that to heal the nation through story writing and art. I’ve discovered my purpose.”

“Umuntu ngumuntu ngabanye abantu (No man is an island)”

Lungelo Mhlongo, SS 2018

My name is Lungelo Mhlongo and I’m from Elembeni in Maphumulo area. The most significant story for me as a story sparker is a story about two boys from the community of Kolweni Primary School. They were delinquent children and community members use to judge them. They were also from poor background, so most people thought they will quit school, because of their delinquent behaviour. Some teachers use not to involve them in some of the school activities, because they were destructive in class.

When Nal’ibali was introduced in their school, they participated in Nal’ibali activities like supplements and that positively influenced their behaviour. As a result, these boys started showing interest in some of the school work and the teachers noticed some improvements.

The community and the school principal started supporting them with some school uniform and they looked clean and presentable. They community showed lot of support and contributed a lot towards their wellbeing. The boys then showed increased self-esteem, they were motivated as result they participated in most of the school activities, they also participated in the reading club showcase competition and the school won an award in the iLembe district. The community also celebrated with them and congratulated them for winning the reading club showcase.

Our Funders

FirstRand Empowerment Foundation
The DG Murray Trust
United States Agency for International Development

A story in the numbers

Our 2018 Annual Financial Reports