One teacher sets out to change the world


Elaine Pillay is a young teacher is making a change in the South African world of literature.

After noticing that many underprivileged children have not had the opportunity of reading childhood stories that many take for granted, Pillay from Fourways, wrote a book titled Zwai and the Little Creature.

The book is based on the backgrounds of the children she was teaching at the time. “When I realised that the children in my Grade 8 class were not familiar with any particular literature, I decided that I wanted to start them off easy. So I began with something that I thought was general enough. I asked them if they knew the story of Cinderella but, to my surprise, they didn’t,” said Pillay.

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The teacher realised then that the children did not have common ground when it came to English literature, and introducing books such as Cinderella would not be relevant to their lives. She started seeking out literature that the children could relate to and learn from, however, she could not find anything suitable for the children in her class.

“That’s when the idea came to me; that’s when I decided that I would write something for them. The first copy was rejected by my publishers, but after I sent in the second one they started the journey with me and we kept refining the book to where it is now. It took about a year to get the book to the final stage.”

She added that every time she sees a child at her school reading her book, her heart stops because the words in the book are the legacy she will leave behind for the next generation.

Teacher Elaine Pillay has written a book that is relevant to her schoolchildren.

Teacher Elaine Pillay has written a book that is relevant to her schoolchildren.

“The name Zwai is one of the pupils in my class. I like the tough guys in my classroom because I feel that they need the most love and attention, so I wanted him to know that he has a special name and that he is, in fact, a special boy.

“I think, as adults, we have a responsibility to show children that there is a more positive way to live than the circumstances that the children might find [themselves in].”

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