Feel Good Inspiring South Africans get together to create Covid-19 educational material in African...

Inspiring South Africans get together to create Covid-19 educational material in African languages

A group of inspiring creatives have come together on a pro-bono project aimed at getting coronavirus educational material translated into African Languages so it can be shared with and understood by all South Africans.

Reach All South Africa was created by Johannesburg-based creatives after identifying the need to have important information about the virus available in more languages.

“This need was initially discovered when my father, who is a farmer in Eastern Cape, asked me to help him source video and audio information on the coronavirus for him to share with his staff who speak predominantly Xhosa, whereas he speaks mostly English and Sotho” explains Moira-Gene Sephton Gous, who has been working on the project.

“After an extensive search I could only find one or two videos, and they did not do a good job of explaining why the fight is so critical and what precautions to take, as many were outdated.

“This led to me trying to edit together in the quickest and most effective way possible, from what was already existing, video content that is credible and could be translated and shared. I am a big believer in getting the why, what and how into the message, and using first language where it is possible.”

Official communication like prevention material, national addresses and procedures are delivered predominantly in English. However, English is only the sixth most spoken language in South Africa, with only 8.1% of individuals speaking English at home. The most commonly spoken languages at home are Zulu (25%), Xhosa (15%), Afrikaans (12%), Sepedi (10%) and Sotho (8%).

“The material which I have found in African languages is also very focused on the most basic safety measures, the ‘how’, which is fine, but it does not address the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the situation. It does not explain what coronavirus is, and why it is so dangerous and important to prevent,” she says.

Gous teamed up with friends Amy Bell, Marie-Louise Botha from the Bothabile African Language Institute, Modikwe Mofokeng and Helien Gous to create the videos.

There is very little CoronaVIRUS education or empowering information available in Zulu, Xhosa, Sepedia and Sotho – and that which is available does not explain what the virus is and why prevention is so important

Moira-Gene Sephton Gous

Reach All South Africa is focusing on Sotho and Zulu as per the advice of the Bothabile Language Institute which has donated all the translation work. These two languages cover the Nguni group of languages – Zulu, Ndebele, Siswati and Xhosa – and the Sotho group – Tswana, Sotho, Sepedi – and allow for a wider understanding.

“We are creating a series of educational videos in Zulu, Sotho (and in English, as the base video) with titles, subtitles and audio. The format aims to be inclusive, also catering for people who are deaf or illiterate,” Gous explains.

Zulu and Sotho were chosen as the main languages by their translation partner because by there is good understanding of different languages within the major language groups.

  As many behavioural studies have shown, it is very hard to change behaviour or introduce new behaviour without explaining why the new behaviour is needed and why the preventative measures work and are important.

Reach All South Africa

“By using Sotho, we are covering Tswana, Sotho and Sepedi speakers. And the Zulu version covers Siswati, Ndebele and Xhosa speakers,” they explain.

The first Zulu video is due out in the next few days, as well as a series of eBooks that help parents explain the coronavirus to kids, also translated into Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho and Afrikaans.

Share your Covid-19 #lockdown experiences on our Facebook group, Lockdown Diaries South Africa.