The Oxford and Cambridge teams  during the 2014 Oxford and Cambridge University Press Boat Race, V and A  Waterfront, CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA

The month of November in Cape Town has become synonymous with the Oxford–Cambridge Paddle to Read dragon boat race, now in its fourth year of raising funds to support literacy. This annual initiative by Oxford University Press Southern Africa and Cambridge University Press saw Cambridge taking the 2014 title at the event on Saturday 29 November at the V&A Waterfront in the Mother City.

Supporters made their way to the race festivities in droves to cheer on their favourite teams. Emulating the annual Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge universities, the event has steadily gained momentum since its inception in 2010 and continues to grow every year.

The fierce rivalry between the two South African publishing houses, both of which have links to the respective British universities, was on show as each team went all out to take the title. Each boat was manned by 16 paddlers, a sweep and a drummer who spurred the ‘troops’ on towards the finish line.

Another highlight of the morning was a friendly race between two Western Cape schools – Montevideo Primary School and Protea Primary School. Fun charity races saw key education stakeholders – including Western Cape Education MEC, Debbie Schafer – take to the water to try their hand at dragon boat racing.

Schafer commented, “Literacy is the foundation for all learning. We currently face unacceptable rates of illiteracy, which negatively impacts on our education system and consequently our economic growth. Access to sufficient and adequate reading resources is a part of the problem. Government cannot address this alone, and we need the assistance of organisations such as The Shine Centre, which aims to improve literacy levels among children in schools and disadvantaged communities.

“It is a great pleasure and privilege to be able to take part in this fun event to help raise funds for one of our partners in education”, continued Schafer.

While the younger crowd was kept occupied with reading activities and competitions in a special children’s corner facilitated by beneficiary The Shine Centre, race spectators were entertained throughout the morning by Smile FM presenter Benito Vergotine.

Colleen McCallum, managing director at Cambridge University Press, commented, “What a fun event this is each year. There is a healthy rivalry between the teams but in the end the winner is always The Shine Centre. It is indeed a pleasure to be able to benefit literacy and have a great day out at the same time.”

Managing director of Oxford University Press Southern Africa, Steve Cilliers, added, “Supporting reading through The Shine Centre is one of the ways we demonstrate our commitment to education in general and literacy in particular. We pay tribute to the hundreds of volunteers who give freely of their time and other partners of Shine who support this cause.”

All proceeds generated from the event went to The Shine Centre, a multiple-award-winning non-profit organisation that provides support in language and literacy to young children. According to The Shine Centre’s founder and executive director, Maurita Weissenberg, the organisation continues to grow and expand its reach with seven Shine Centres supporting nine schools in Cape Town and 11 Shine Chapters (social franchises) in three provinces. Other key literacy projects include Shine Family Literacy Workshops and the Shine Book Buddies programme, which pairs older and younger children to read together. In 2014 Shine reading clubs have been established in five Grade R classes at Sosebenza Primary School in Khayelitsha. The money raised through Paddle to Read will be used to provide these classrooms with beautiful storybooks and readers.

For more information about Shine please visit http://www.theshinecentre.org.za/


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