Carlsbad, Calif.--Fresh off its participation in career fair that was part of Africa Education Week, the Gemological Institute of America announced that it’s collaborating with the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory to provide libraries for elementary students in South Africa.

On July 22, Sello K. Hatang, chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, met with Susan Jacques, chair of the GIA’s board of governors and its interim president and CEO, in Carlsbad to sign a memo of understanding beginning the collaboration.

The GIA will provide Mandela Day libraries and equip them with a selection of books to two schools in 2013 and two more in 2014, giving children at schools without reading facilities access to appropriate reading materials in their own languages.

Mandela Day libraries are facilities created from large shipping containers that have been retrofitted with new flooring insulation, electricity and, as any good library has, book shelves. A South African-based charity and non-governmental organization called Breadline Africa is the main partner of the container program.

The Mandela Day libraries project began in 2011 to help bridge the gap in literacy and reading proficiency at schools throughout South Africa. It is a project of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, which delivers the core work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, a non-for-profit started by the former South African president himself upon his retirement in 1999. The foundation seeks to continue the ongoing support of causes Mandela deemed worthy, including education.

“We are excited about our new collaboration with GIA. It will present many pupils with an opportunity to improve their literacy and ultimately their lives. Literacy remains an enormous challenge in Africa and is a key priority on the youth agenda,” Hatang said.

GIA Chief Learning Officer Bev Hori said the libraries are the first phase of the GIA’s new collaboration with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and the organization looks forward to growing the relationship.

The GIA has developed education programs in Africa over the past 10 years, including introducing its Junior Gemologist Program there last year and participating in the Career Indaba trade show in Johannesburg, its first participation at an African career fair, in June. 

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