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"Whether learners — children and adults — should be educated in their mother tongue or English first is a contested topic, with champions and opponents on both ends of the spectrum. South Africa’s education policy recommends mother-tongue instruction until grade 3, after which most schools switch to English. Generally, adult education and training institutions adopt a similar approach."

Read the full article in Mail and Guardian

"If basic skills are not acquired and learners are pushed through school, it can have dire consequences for their future development, write Tholisa Matheza and Dianne Hendricks.
While tabling her budget vote in May last year, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga proposed a progression policy which would see struggling learners from grades R to 3 (Foundation Phase) be advanced through primary school without having to repeat a grade, even if certain educational milestones had not been achieved. "

Read more in News24

"Nal’ibali, the national reading-for-enjoyment campaign has been awarded The International Joy of Reading Prize in Aarhus, Denmark. The judges applauded Nal’ibali for its long-term impact and influence on local communities in South Africa. They highlighted Nal’ibali’s framework that creates a nurturing environment, as well as generating a variety of multilingual reading materials so that children from all age groups learn to love reading in the many mother tongues spoken in South Africa."

Read more about the award in the article on Inside Education

Read more about Nal'ibali here

"This is an Open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga

President Ramaphosa, we congratulate you on the formation of our new government and Minister Motshekga on your re-appointment.

Alongside the people of South Africa, we of the bua-lit collective and our many affiliates working in education live with renewed hope that government will honour its mandate to address the deep systemic inequality that persists so long after 1994.

The promise of a renewed effort to create jobs is significant, as is the promise to support the key areas of basic education that President Ramaphosa committed to in his February State of the Nation Address, namely, that government will invest in early childhood development (ECD), early reading literacy and digital technologies. We applaud this focus. 4

However, if our education system is going to produce school leavers who can meet the demands of a 21st-century economy and of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), the provision of quality education for all must be prioritised."

Read more on Daily Maverick

"Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) has revealed that nearly half of South Africa's children have never read a book with a parent, raising questions about whether or not there has been a culture of reading harnessed in the country. Puku Foundation executive director Elinor Sisulu has provided context to the problem, with a look at the history of the migrant labour system which has lead to the absence of parents."

Listen to the interview on Cape Talk

"Increasingly, statutory and professional bodies are approaching universities in relation to the languages of instruction used in classrooms. The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) and Engineering’s Ikhusasa Student Financial Aid Programme (Isfap) are bodies which have stipulated that English is required because either the assessments associated with the board are to be taken in English (Saica), or the bursaries allocated (by Isfap) are dependent on English being the medium of instruction.

Coupled with other requirements, for example those made by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng concerning English as the language of the courts, it seems clear that the entrenchment of English monolingualism has gained momentum. And not only monolingualism, but also the direct accountability required by professions in relation to the content areas, credit loads and even restrictions pertaining to electives in academic programmes, as offered by autonomous universities. "

Read more in Mail and Guardian

"A report in the Times has quoted a secondary school teacher who complained that their year 7 intake no longer knew how to tell a story. “They knew what a fronted adverbial was, and how to spot an internal clause, and even what a preposition was – but when I set them a task to write a story, they broke down and cried,” reported the teacher. The fact that no importance is placed on storytelling makes me very frustrated not only because it puts so little value or emphasis on children’s creativity, but also because storytelling is more than simply an art – it is a crucial skill for life and commerce.

Read more in the Guardian

"As part of its goal to promote literacy among learners under the age of 10 years, Volkswagen Group South Africa (VWSA) has invested R4m towards training the educators responsible for teaching Eastern Cape learners to read. VWSA has partnered with and invested in Funda Wande, a Grahamstown-based non-profit organisation. Funda Wande’s primary aim is improve the reading ability of learners from Grades 1 to 3 – as the majority of South Africa’s learners are not taught to read with understanding in this phase."

Read more on Bizcommunity

"Lack of access to reading material and textbooks are two of the main reasons that 78% of South African children in grade 3 still can’t read for meaning. And education expert Professor Mary Metcalfe says fixing this national literacy crisis will take time and hard work. Metcalfe’s comments came during her three-day lecture, “South Africa’s School Crisis”, at the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) 2019 Summer School this week."

Read more from UCT News

"Many parents accept research that proves childhood is the best time to learn a new language. But there are some who still believe learning another language will only confuse their child. This is an especially relevant topic in a multi-lingual country like South Africa, where the school curriculum is expanding to include more vernacular languages. Dr Michelle White, a post-doctoral fellow in Linguistics at Stellenbosch University, says her latest research shows that a new language does not hamper a child's general learning."

Listen to the interview on Cape Talk

"Last week a report from two years ago came up again on my timeline. The report stated that almost 80% of South Africa’s 10-year-olds cannot read for basic meaning in any national language. And last week, as when the report first came out, those who engaged with the story were, like a certain politician, shocked. I never fail to be bemused by how often some of my fellow citizens do not question that we keep doing things the same way yet expect different results. "

Read more in Mail and Guardian

"Eight out of every 10 children in South Africa can’t read properly. Not in English, not in their home language, not in any language. According to The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), an international comparative reading assessment: 78% of Grade 4 learners in South Africa cannot read for meaning, and this is significantly worse for children tested in African languages—93% of Grade 4 students tested in Sepedi could not read for meaning with similarly large percentages among Setswana (90%), Tshivenda (89%), isiXhosa (88%), Xitsonga (88%), isiZulu (87%) and isiNdebele (87%)."

Read more on Africa is a Country

 A study done by SchoolNet South Africa or SNSA, has found that the introduction and integration of digital tools in the classroom have proven to improve the literacy levels among children. This follows after the shocking report of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) in 2017 that stated that at least 78% of grade 4 learners in South African cannot read properly. According to SNSA the solution to the foundation phase reading crisis - is technology!

"Large numbers of South African children struggle to understand what they are reading.

In fact, South Africa was placed last out of 50 countries in the recently released Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). The study found that 8 out of 10 Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning. If children can’t read, they can’t learn, so are more likely to be trapped in the scourge of poverty, hopelessness and unemployment. Being able to read enables children to live a better future.

Breakthrough to Literacy (BTL), a mother-tongue literacy course for Grades 1 to 3, is very powerful in teaching children to read with comprehension. The programme also develops their writing and listening skills.

Published by the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy, the BTL method utilises as the basis for learning to read and write, the aural and oral language skills the child brings into the classroom from home."

Read more in NGO Pulse

"These days parents, caregivers and teachers have lots of options when it comes to fulfilling that request. You can read a picture book, put on a cartoon, play an audiobook, or even ask Alexa.

newly published study gives some insight into what may be happening inside young children's brains in each of those situations. And, says lead author Dr. John Hutton, there is an apparent "Goldilocks effect" — some kinds of storytelling may be "too cold" for children, while others are "too hot." And, of course, some are "just right."

Hutton is a researcher and pediatrician at Cincinnati Children's Hospital with a special interest in "emergent literacy" — the process of learning to read."

Read more about the findings on nprEd


Growing up, Gadija Sydow Noordien discovered a new world each time she opened a book. She travelled with characters as they embarked upon fantastical adventures, escaping into the excitement of stories. The daughter of a cleaner, Noordien was exposed to books through her mother’s work at Westridge Public Library, and left school after completing Grade 10. Noordien then became a shelf-packer at Westridge, a constant source of comfort. She knew she had more to offer, but never expected to have a library of her own. Today she does just that, sharing the magic of words with over 700 children.

Read more in BeautifulNews

  • Eight out of every ten children in the country cannot read in any language.
  • Among Setswana and Sepedi home language learners the figure is over 90%.
  • What South Africa needs is to decide what Japan decided in 1872, that “there must be no community with an illiterate family, nor a family with an illiterate person”. This became Japan’s ‘Fundamental Code of Education’. Within decades they had successfully eradicated illiteracy.
  • What South Africa needs is a Marshall Plan for Reading. We need you to use yourpresidency to mobilise our country behind one goal:That all children can read for meaning by the end of Grade 3.

Read more in the Daily Maverick

There’s a reason the PIRLS test targeted Grade Fours. The age is a tipping point: if a child remains functionally illiterate at age nine, there is a strong correlation to them remaining so, which in turn leads to an inevitably steep school drop-out shelf.

A 78% illiteracy rate in Grade Four means the next generation will enter the workforce without these very basic skills needed to raise themselves out of poverty. It means a generation without the capacity to learn, to teach, to lead. More alarmingly, it means a generation unable to pass along literacy to their own children, exacerbating the situation still further with every passing year.\

Nal’ibali operates country-wide to spark children’s potential by creating opportunities for children to fall in love with books and stories in home languages as well as English.

Read more about Nal’ibali's literacy interventions in BooksLive

Being able to read and write depends on oral language abilities that begin developing from the earliest days in a child’s life. Through nurturing relationships, critical brain connections are made that will support a child’s language development. Children who grow up in language-rich environments have a better vocabulary at the age of three and four, and this correlates with reading comprehension at the age of nine. Our grade fours are failing not only because of the quality of teaching of reading in grades one to three but also because they missed out on critical early learning experiences from birth to the age of five.

Read more in the Mail&Guardian

  • Almost four in five Grade 4 pupils fall below the lowest internationally recognised level of reading literacy‚ and South Africa is last out of 50 countries in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls).
  • Professor Sarah Howie‚ the Pirls co-ordinator for South Africa‚ said the results suggested most pupils cannot read well enough to succeed in subjects across the curriculum in Grade 4 and higher grades.
  • “While less than half of the learners who wrote the tests in English and Afrikaans could read‚ 80% of those learning in one of the other nine official languages effectively cannot read at all.”

Read more in TimesLive


Not only the economy will suffer from a labour force that is poorly educated but our democracy itself will also be poorer if citizens cannot enjoy their civil and political rights meaningfully in the absence of a culture of reading, and reading with comprehension.

It is impossible to exaggerate the stakes. A deliberative and participatory model of democracy presupposes a critical mass of citizens who read, and who do so with comprehension. That means the democratic project is fatally wounded without an urgent national plan to teach teachers how to teach reading better and to ensure well-stocked public libraries in all our communities and one in every school, as well as developing and entrenching a culture of reading and of enjoying books, as much as our children love technology.

Read more in Mail&Guardian

  • In a comparative study among 50 countries, South Africa placed last in the measurement of the reading skill set of Grade 4 learners.
  • 702/CapeTalk host Eusebius McKaiser said that the young are being set up for guaranteed failure, and democracy in itself is in trouble if our children cannot read with comprehension.
  • Stephen Taylor, Director of Research at the Department of Basic Education: 
    • Early reading outcomes are strongly predictive of later education outcomes like getting to matric.
    • If we look at between 2006 and 2011 there actually does seem to be an improvement. 

Read more and listen to the podcast on Cape Talk

Government should consider teaching subjects in indigenous languages or strengthening the learning of English if it wants to improve results in basic education‚ Wits University education expert Professor Mary Metcalfe has said.

Metcalfe spoke to TimesLIVE after delivering the annual JB Marks Memorial Lecture at the University of Johannesburg on Tuesday night.

During her interactive session with students‚ unionists and academics‚ she laid bare the serious challenges that the South African education system is facing.

One of the problems faced in education was the fact that children were not taught in their mother tongue‚ which affected their ability to understand concepts.

Read more in Times Live