Lecturer Writes Children’s Books in isiZulu as a Hobby

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UKZN’s Dr Phindile Dlamini whose hobby is writing children’s books in isiZulu.

‘I write in isiZulu because it is my mother tongue, my identity. It is the language I know best and I would like to be counted among those who contributed in preserving and enriching indigenous languages.’

So says Dr Phindile Dlamini, an isiZulu Studies lecturer in UKZN’s School of Arts, who writes children’s books in isiZulu as a hobby.

Dlamini has written 37 books and of these 15 have been published by Shuter and Shooter in a collection titled: uGwajo Graded Reader Series (for Grades 1-3), which is in the National Schools Catalogue and currently being used in primary schools throughout South Africa.

The series name and the main character were carefully selected with the aim of encouraging learners to read. Gwajo is a nickname for unogwaja, a popular fictional character among young children.

Said Dlamini: ’Gwajo is aimed at being an extension of the folktale world learners are exposed to in their pre-school years. Several isiZulu folktales learners are told by their grandmothers and grandfathers as well as by their preschool teachers portray unogwaja as an intelligent, busy character with exciting and tricky actions. ‘Therefore, naming the series uGwajo and the main character Gwajo was carefully planned to arouse that intelligence and excitement in learners.’

Dlamini previously worked as a publisher at Heinemann Publishers where she commissioned authors to write books.

‘I was in publishing for 16 years and that is where my writing began,’ she said. ‘I remember we had to supply the Department of Education with children’s books and deadlines were very tight. My authors didn’t rise to the occasion and I was about to lose a big order from the Department so I had to make a plan.

‘I wrote two books and submitted them to my editor without telling him who the author was. He liked them and asked if the author I had found could write another three. I submitted the other three and all five were bought by the Department of Education for school libraries nationwide!’

In 2008, one of Dlamini’s books titled: USnuphunuphu kade elap won a national award. The book is about two boys who lose their dog and how they find it again. ‘This story teaches children about different strategies to use when something valuable is lost, warning that in the process devious people may be encountered.’

She also has written a non-fiction book about the 2010 World Cup, titled: 2010 Kwakunje!

Dlamini recently collaborated with other UKZN academics in writing and editing a book titled: Asifunde IsiZulu.

Giving advice to aspiring authors, Dlamini says it is important to read other books in the genre writers are interested in as this will give them a background on elements that characterise that genre as well as help create ideas on what to write about.

Nomcebo Mncube