South Africa's Literacy Rates Plunge Deeper As Learning Time Is Lost


Solving South Africa's literacy crisis is not clear-cut, but experts agree that having 'bums on seats' is the first step.

First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.

"That's the only way we're going to be able to turn around what looks like a deep dive off a cliff," said Professor Sarah Howie, director of the Africa Centre for Scholarship at Stellenbosch University.

However, this is proving to be a challenge during Covid-19. Pandemic-related closures of Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres across South Africa - some temporary and some permanent because of financial struggles - would take its toll on learner literacy.

"By missing out on attendance at ECD centres, children have lost the early literacy momentum that they would have developed. This means a delay in their language and reading abilities," said Eric Atmore, head of the Centre for Early Childhood Development.

Education and literacy experts say that school dropout rates could surge in years to come if urgent interventions are not put in place to recover lost learning time. Howie said, however, that South Africa was not alone, and literacy setbacks could happen globally because of the pandemic.

According to the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy...

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