Outgoing ambassador to South Africa, Shigeyuki Hiroki with Sapesi members in front of one of the donated buses.
“THE Japanese believe a child should read, write and calculate,” said Tadashi Hasunuma, the recipient of a commendation last week for the Japanese-sponsored mobile library project.

The project, SA Primary Education Support Initiative (Sapesi), brings books to schoolchildren across SA.

Hasunuma is former managing director of Sony SA and had the idea of importing buses from Japan to repurpose as libraries when he realised how many children, especially in rural areas, didn't have access to books.

Today, with the support of Sony worldwide and a number of other Japanese companies, Sapesi has 80 mobile library buses with 170000 donated new and second-hand, with a further 13000 books purchased by Sony in indigenous languages.

The buses, donated to provincial education authorities, travel to more than 800 schools across all nine provinces. Each bus can carry up to 2500 books, carefully selected according to age and themes in the curriculum, with fiction and non-fiction suitable for children from 6 to 11 years old.

Sapesi aims to have 100 mobile libraries to serve 2500 schools within the next few years, and hopes to improve literacy and numeracy among primary schoolchildren. Hasunuma received the commendation on Friday from outgoing ambassador to South Africa, Shigeyuki Hiroki, for the project's contribution to education. Hiroki leaves South Africa for Sweden.

He reflected on the good relations between Pretoria and Tokyo, the Economic Forum, motor industry growth, the Ingula hydropectric project, a desalination project in Durban, the Japan Exchange and Teaching programme, African Business Initiative and SA-Japan University forum.