6 December 2017

South Africa: Open Letter to the Next South African President - Get an Urgent Plan to Eradicate Illiteracy

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What South Africa needs is a Marshall Plan for Reading. We need you to use your presidency to mobilise our country behind one goal: That all children can read for meaning by the end of Grade 3. By NIC SPAULL & DAVID CAREL.

Cyril, Nkosasana - are you sitting down?

By now we trust that your advisers have informed you about the latest reading results released yesterday: 78% of our Grade 4 students can't read. That's eight out of every ten children in the country. Not in English, not in their home language, not in any language. Among Setswana and Sepedi home language learners the figure is over 90%.

We came last. Of the 50 countries that participated in the test, we came dead last.

But what does that mean? After four years of full-time schooling the vast majority of our kids cannot understand what they read, if they can decode the words at all. Simple questions, workbook exercises, even the most basic story book. These are meaningless to them. And if we don't teach our kids how to read we've failed them before they've even started.

So what does this mean to you? In all likelihood one of you...

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