Readathon Contributes to Fight Against Illiteracy (South Africa)
- The following item from the South African government news service
BuaNews was seen on AllAfrica.com at
http://allafrica.com/stories/200504220375.html . The multilingual
dimension of literacy is implicit but not directly mentioned. DZO
Feature: Readathon Contributes to Fight Against Illiteracy, Writes
April 22, 2005
Posted to the web April 22, 2005
As efforts are being made to address illiteracy in the country,
special attention is being placed on this year's Readathon 2005.
This reading campaign will be launched at the Apartheid Museum in
Johannesburg on 23 April, and coincides with the World Book Day.
The national Department of Education's systematic evaluation of 2003
paints a disturbing picture: from a random sample of 5 percent of
learners at Grade 3 level it was found that most could not read and
write at the level expected at that grade.
The evaluation revealed that only 54 percent of these learners had
acquired the life skills expected at grade 3; listening comprehension
was at 68 percent; reading and writing was at 39 percent and numeracy
was at 30 percent.
The Read Education Trust, which complements government's
interventions in the battle against illiteracy, this year plans to
distribute reading material to 26 000 schools nationwide.
The non-governmental organisation also encourages people to read in
libraries and community centres.
Education Minister Naledi Pandor will launch Readathon 2005 under the
theme "Reading changes lives".
Read says Readathon 2005 will build on the agenda of community
building through reading and will focus on the idea that "reading can
build families, families build communities and communities build a
A media campaign in this regard will target both broadly and
specifically to a wide range of stakeholders and will appeal to
adults and children, women's groups, commercial sector, government,
community leaders and the public in general.
"The Readathon 2005 will serve as a channel for the core messages of
the department of education concerning literacy, and it will work
together with stakeholders to create a common sense of ownership,"
says a message on the Read website.
Thus the organisation calls on community organisations to organise
reading events, to invite a public speaker and swap books.
It also calls on schools to submit their details to receive a
Readathon materials pack and businesses to host Readathon visits - "a
group of schoolchildren will come and read to your staff, and learn
from you what your company is all about".
The campaign's activities will culminate on International Literacy
Week on 1- 9 September when children will read to parliamentarians,
celebrities, business leaders and other high profile patrons and
supporters of reading.
Read Educational Trust Director Cynthia Hugo told BuaNews that
literacy, and reading, were crucial aspects in the country's
"We hope for a future South Africa that has a dynamic economy, an
effective democracy and a tolerant society.
"For that we need citizens that are well informed, skilled, able to
participate in debate and understand other cultures. The way to
achieve this is through reading, encouraging young learners to read,"
Ms Hugo says the level of literacy in the country must be improved.
She says most of the 80 percent of adults that are reported to have
acquired functional literacy could only read and write their names
and sentences in their own languages.
"Being able to read and write only is not enough for South Africans
to be able to be players in the global economy. Literacy means that
people must be able to read and understand complex issues," she
Ms Hugo points out that the high illiteracy situation that persists
is a result of "pathetic funding" of education in the former
homelands and the lack of reading materials in schools.
"It is alarming to note that ten years ago it was found that more
than a third of children, especially in homelands, never attended
school. These people grew up illiterate," Ms Hugo explains.
Ms Hugo says one of the ways to improve the literacy rate was to
provide schools with "exciting, relevant" books and to train
educators on how to use the material effectively.
"Teachers need to create excitement and interest in reading amongst
learners. They should also link what the children are writing with
what they have been reading from the books," she says, adding that
teachers also need to praise learners more often for good work to
instil confidence in them.
Dr Dzingai Mutumbuka, World Bank's human development sector manager
for Eastern and Southern Africa warns on Read's website that "While
Africa is still struggling to catch up with the rest of world in
terms of achieving a minimum level of literacy, the rest of the world
is not waiting for Africa.
Instead it is galloping away even faster, benefiting from the
advances in information technology,"
"The criteria for literacy do not remain stagnant either," he
continues, "Definitions of literacy now include numeracy, problem-
solving skills, knowledge of social practices, language and culture.
They will soon include some level of computer literacy".
Meanwhile, Read warns that measuring literacy in statistics is not an
exact reflection of a country's literacy levels.
"Consider how literate do you have to be to survive in today's
knowledge based economies?" asks Read.
However, despite the shortcomings she identified, Ms Hugo commends
the current government for its efforts in providing schools and
learning materials to schools, although she says more still needs to
be done in this regard.
In an attempt to eradicate illiteracy, the Department of Education
has instituted Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) and the
Early Child Development (ECD) programme.
ABET aims to provide illiterate adults with basic education and
training to enable them to participate more effectively in socio-
economic and political processes to contribute to development and
The South Africa Yearbook 2004/5 reveals that ABET has significantly
reduced the number of adults with no education from 4.2 million in
1996 (Census 1996) to 1.8 million in 2001 (Labour Force Survey).
In addition over a million learners attended and successfully
completed literacy and ABET programmes between 1999 and 2002 alone.
ECD, on the other hand, addresses the learning process for the very
It focuses on the social, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and
moral development of children from birth to nine years.
ECD develops, evaluates and maintains policy, programmes and systems
for these youngsters.
ECD also maintains an accreditation system for education providers
It aims to ensure that all children entering grade one have at least
participated in an accredited grade R programme by 2010.