Johannesburg. 7 September 2023. The READ Educational Trust (READ) will be joining the international community in celebrating International Literacy Day on Friday, 8 September. This is a very important day in the global calendar, declared by UNESCO in 1966, to highlight the importance of improving literacy levels of individuals and communities across the world.
READ regards this day as an opportunity for all educators in South Africa to reflect on how much has been achieved to improve the literacy levels of our population, particularly among primary school learners.
The CEO of READ Educational Trust, Ms. Sizile Mabaso, says READ is concerned about the declining literacy levels among primary school learners, particularly among Grade 4 learners in South Africa. A study conducted earlier this year showed that 81% of Grade Four learners in SA can’t read for meaning. The study also found that reading in the country’s schools has not improved and that children need more books and reading activities at home and in school to improve their literacy.
“This is an urgent priority that we need to collectively address as a nation, because illiteracy has a huge impact on our economy. We must reverse the situation before it becomes a crisis that we cannot control”, she says.
Ms. Mabaso says increased literacy levels enables people to participate meaningfully in economic activities and improve their livelihoods. She says recent research conducted by the World Literacy Foundation found that illiteracy was costing the South African economy R119.03 billion as about 3 million people struggle to read, write, and do basic maths.
Poor literacy levels were destroying people’s lives and was often the cause of a number of problematic issues such as poverty, unemployment, crime, poor quality of life and even worse, long-term illnesses. However, improved literacy levels can change young people’s lives and empower them to reach their full potential.
Despite this challenge, says Mabaso, South Africa is committed to addressing this problem through a number of interventions supported by the government, the private and the NGO sectors. “It’s not all doom and gloom for the literacy landscape in South Africa. Numerous efforts by various stakeholders are being implemented to take the country out of this, and READ is part of that collective effort”, she says.
READ is an NGO that is actively involved in designing, developing, and implementing literacy strategies and interventions, particularly amongst the previously disadvantaged schools. The organisation also empowers and trains teachers by equipping them with scientifically proven methodologies, as well as providing learners with state-of-the art reading resources.
“However, we also need to understand that improving people’s literacy levels is a lengthy educational and learning journey and cannot be achieved overnight. Our systems and methodologies of improving literacy levels among school children have stood the test of time and proven to be very effective. As the READ Educational Trust we want to continue with the legacy and impact we have created over the many years of our existence”, she says.
Ms Mabaso says READ will continue to work with various stakeholders, including the Department of Education to explore how to accelerate the implementation of the country’s literacy strategy. The organisation will also explore how technological innovations can be effectively leveraged to enhance literacy levels amongst school learners.
“Although we are currently facing a literacy challenge in South Africa, the good news is that we are not sitting back and folding our hands. Organisations such as READ are actively implementing solutions to improve the situation until the country reaches its targeted 90% literacy rate by 2030”, she says.