Queen Rania Reads "Maha of the Mountains" to Children in Johannesburg

March 27, 2009

(Office of Her Majesty, Press Department - Johannesburg) As a staunch advocate for increasing access to quality education, Her Majesty Queen Rania on Friday announced her role as Honorary Chair of the Global Action Week on Education in anticipation of the “Big Read” event organized by the Global Campaign for Education.

Before reading her story to a group of curious children surrounding her in the Sandton Public Library in Johannesburg, Queen Rania addressed the need to provide “Education for All” by calling on millions to join the “Big Read” campaign.

Children from Soweto and Thembisa as well as Africa’s popular women leaders then gathered closely around the Queen to hear her narrate, “Maha of the Mountains”. Before reading the short story, which tells of a young girl’s determination to become a school teacher, Queen Rania asked children to tell her why going to school is so important.

In a sudden outburst of enthusiasm, Gcina Mhlope, South Africa’s popular poet and inspirational storyteller suddenly intervened: “No one can ever take education away from you,” she said in a charismatic tone to the children. “Education gives you respect, and respect takes you to many places.” Mhlophe, who never entered a library before the age of 20, currently focuses on taking books to South African rural communities and provinces in an effort to encourage children to read and write. “My father, my family, my customs, my culture taught me to put down the weapon, and pick up our pens” she said proudly.

Her Majesty then carried on describing Maha’s struggle with family and friends who believe her desire to learn how to read and write- is a dream not worth pursuing. Reaffirming the value of education as a means to achieving life’s deepest aspirations, Her Majesty finally asked children to guess the tale’s happy ending.

With 774 million illiterate adults and 75 million children out of school the Global Campaign for Education puts pressure on all governments to deliver ‘Education for All’. Every year the campaign launches an event during “Action Week” which brings to light the importance of a particular aspect of education.

This year’s “Big Read” campaign compiles different stories written from influential global leaders. The stories will be read and signed by millions of people around the world in an effort to collect names in demand of Governments to take action in defense of the right of education for all. The list of names added to the Big Read in South Africa will be delivered to the new President and Minister of Education on June 16th.

The Big Read event will take place in over 100 different countries during the week of the 20-26th April. Other contributors to the Big Read include Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Chimamanda Ngozi and Paulo Coelho.

After lending her support to the Big Read campaign, Queen Rania visited the renowned Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg dedicated to illustrating apartheid and 20th century history of South Africa. Her Majesty toured the museum’s rooms which are set out by means of blown-up photographs, artifacts, cages, newspaper clippings, and film footage, to graphically animate the apartheid story.

The museum which was opened in 2001 represents a beacon of hope showing South Africa is working towards a brighter future which all South African people can call their own.