“Do you know that reading statistics show that only 14% of South Africans’ are readers of books?”
This was the opening statement made by South Africa’s Honourable Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, in an interview conducted during National Book week in 2016. The Department of Basic Education launched the “read to lead” campaign in 2015, after shocking statistics by the National Education and Evaluation Development Unit revealed that 58% of Grade 4 learners could not read for meaning, while 29% were completely illiterate. South Africa is a country that has 11 official languages, and only 9.6% of the population is fluent in English.
Many South African children are already at a disadvantage due to illiteracy. The issue is exacerbated in rural communities, where resources are scarce. It is within this context that the Department launched the “read to lead” campaign, aimed at combating illiteracy, which it believes is a contributing factor to the country’s high unemployment rate. The campaign is set to run for four years, with the focal point being on improving the reading abilities of all South African children by 2019. The Department has also implored upon the private sector to become active members of the community and help make a difference in the lives of future leaders through campaigns aimed at improving literacy.
On the 25th of October 2017, MANCOSA officially announced its partnership with the Department of Basic Education and New Africa Education Foundation (NAEF), which is aimed at contributing to the “read-to-lead” campaign. The partnership is underpinned by MANCOSA’s Literacy Project – a project that was launched on the same day as the partnership announcement. Mr Louis Taylor, Director of Partnerships from the Department of Basic Education was the guest speaker at the launch and addressed the audience on the importance of literacy and the impact it plays in every individual’s development.
“The introduction of a book at the tender age of 3 years old, allows an individual to develop the necessary skills for simple comprehension” were the sentiments shared by MANCOSA representatives, Professor Yusuf Karodia and Professor Dhiru Soni. “The best gift a child can receive is a simple book or novel” said Professor Soni, who explained the background and objectives of the MANCOSA Literacy Project. MANCOSA was proud to officially launch the first of many mobile libraries which will be rolled out to various schools nationally. These mobile libraries will be filled with grade specific books and are aimed at combating the many difficulties that schools in South Africa face in terms of managing and controlling library resources and infrastructure. “The major enemy that many South African’s schools are currently experiencing is the lack of dedicated teachers who are not qualified in the English language and are placed in these teaching position, predominantly in rural areas of South Africa. This places great difficulties for children whose future is snatched away, simply because they are not gifted a book as a birthday gift”, said Mr Taylor.
MANCOSA was awarded a token of appreciation by the Department of Basic Education to endorse the project’s initiatives and efforts towards making a difference in the life of children in South Africa. Guests were treated to a networking session and light refreshments as the conclusion of the event.