"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

Tags: Education Literacy News and opinions

"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

Tags: Literacy News and opinions

"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

Tags: Literacy News and opinions

"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

Tags: Literacy News and opinions


Ordinary citizens in the BRICS nations haven't yet felt the full impact of advancing technology - but young people are desperate to make connections and form meaningful partnerships. A young entrepreneur in South Africa is using technology to upgrade the education sector and improve literacy in schools across the country. This is his story.


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!


In this talk, researcher Keisha Siriboe shares insightful learning behaviors that parents, educators, and concerned adults can apply within their lives as well as in the lives of children. Drawing from global education policy trends and her own research, she advocates for more parent-child reading aloud to promote parent-child bonding as well as effective literacy development. Keisha Siriboe is a researcher focusing on early childhood literacy, parent education, access and equity issues within Hong Kong. Her research won an outstanding publication award from the American Educational Research Association this year. In Hong Kong, she provides parent-child early literacy programs through her social enterprise, Stories of Us, and has established a long-term social service children's program at St. Barnabas Society with the Graduate House, University of Hong Kong (HKU). Globally, she works with the Word Educational Research Association, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the American Educational Research Association to cultivate student leadership within educational research and policy development. She is currently a doctoral candidate studying English-language education at the HKU, and in 2014, she was the first African-American to graduate from Beijing Normal University with a master's degree in comparative education.


John shares the staggering magnitude of our global illiteracy problem and the potential an international focus on increasing literacy has for creating greater social and economic equality for the world’s next generation. As the Texas Library Association’s 2014 Librarian of the Year, a former member of the Texas Bluebonnet Award Selection Committee, current Texas State Library and Archives Commission Library Systems Act Board Member, and especially as a father of five, John Trischitti, “Mr. T,” understands the power of literacy.

Here, heuses his personal story to argue that reading is the foundation for all other academic skills and key to breaking cycle of poverty, and that school systems must prioritise investment in school libraries.

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

Tags: Literacy

  • 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

Tags: Education Mother Tongue Education


Halve emphasise the role parents should play in creating a reading culture and investing in a home library and not simply relying on schools to foster a child's thirst for knowledge and love of reading. Helvi Wheeler is an Instructional Technology Designer with the Teaching and Learning Unit (TLU) at the Polytechnic of Namibia, and a published author of books for children. Helvi founded Yambeka Children Media. Yambeka is a term which literally means “Blessed” in the Oshiwambo language (for the benefit of international visitors, this is the language spoken by the Ovambo people of Namibia). Yambeka Children Media was created to promote Namibian and other African languages and traditional stories for children between 3-13 years. Helvi is working to make sure that in five years’ time, Yambeka Children Media puts Namibian and African stories on the map of the world. “I also hope to have children’s cartoons, toys, clothes and books that reflect this pride in the rich cultural heritage that we have in Africa.”