Library renamed to honour author

Mavis Williams receives a plaque on behalf of her son Athol Williams.

A Westridge mother cried as she received a plaque honouring her son’s work in literacy promotion.

Mavis Williams, from Westridge, attended the renaming ceremony of West End Primary School’s library to the Athol Williams Library on Thursday January 26.

Athol Williams is an ethics scholar, anti-corruption advocate, poet and author of the Oaky series, which is illustrated by his wife, Taryn Lock. He is also the co-founder and executive director of Read to Rise, a literacy non-profit organisation. Read to Rise does interactive literacy programmes with pupils in the foundation phase. They have lessons, read a story, discuss the story, sing a song and each pupil is given their own new book to take home.

Mr Williams and Ms Lock fled the country, fearing for their safety after he received death threats for blowing the whistle on corruption during the Zondo Commission, a judge-led inquiry into alleged state capture in South Africa.

Leanecia Diedricks and Kulthum Essop choose their favourite books.

Mrs Williams said: “I never saw this coming. I am proud and grateful for my son’s achievements.”

She often volunteers with the literacy group where she covers books, visits schools and helps to pupils learn to read.

Principal Clive Arries acknowledged the Lentegeur school’s governing body’s endorsement of the library name change.

He said their small staffroom was converted into a library, which became a new computer room, doubling up as a staff room.

A new staff room was constructed but the library remained, increasing the number of books and affording pupils access.

“The strategic objective is to recognise and celebrate the positive and developmental role that the community, and especially prominent people, are playing in providing learning opportunities to our future leaders,” he said.

Mr Arries said Mr Williams as a former Mitchell’s Plain resident should be celebrated as “one of our own”.

“He is a living example of changing the world by changing and empowering oneself through education. West End Primary therefore wants to acknowledge Mr Athol Williams for his love of libraries and also want to continue his legacy to develop reading amongst learners, especially in the foundation phase,” he said.

Danicke Asher, Lorentia Davis and Lisa Mack sit on a mat in the library.

Mr Williams founded the Cape Flats Book Festival in 2019, which has been hosted twice at West End. It has brought authors, illustrators, publishers and special guests, including Premier Alan Winde, to its doors.

West End Primary School was also among the top ten schools shortlisted for the World’s Best School Prize, in the “overcoming adversity” category.

The organisation has distributed 200 000 books to pupils at Mitchell’s Plain schools in the last nine-years.

Mr Williams’s younger brother Nicholas addressed pupils and guests at the ceremony last week.

“Athol is sorry that he could not be here today but he sent this message to share with you. He is currently at Oxford University, in England, he sends love and appreciation.”

Mr Williams sent the pupils the following message:

“Two words are always at the forefront of my mind – the word ‘excellence’ and the word ‘possibility’.

“These words offer me guidance. I always pursue excellence in everything that I do and I always act with possibility,” read Mr Williams senior.

“My achievements are no accident. They’ve resulted from my pursuit of excellence and acting with possibility. I worked hard and achieved it,” read the message.

These word have also guided his work to ensure “South Africa fulfil the promise to its people and particularly the people of Mitchell’s Plain with whom I share a proud history. My work inspires young people to read and to rise above their circumstances,” he said.