SA last in literacy among 50 countries


There is a reading crisis in South Africa as large numbers of children struggle to understand what they are reading – but there is a solution.

A programme developed by Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy, Breakthrough to Literacy, aims to develop young children’s reading and writing skills in their home language. According to Molteno, the course has been implemented with great success in some South Africa schools.

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Molteno released a statement in May this year in reference to a finding by Progress in International Reading Literacy Study on the Molteno’s literacy course. The literacy study placed South Africa last out of 50 other countries and found that nearly eight out of 10 Grade 4’s ‘can not read for meaning’. According to Molteno’s statement, “If children can’t read, they can’t learn, so they 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.”

According to Molteno, the literacy course is a powerful, mother-tongue literacy initiative for children in grades 1 to 3. They say that it teaches youngsters to read with comprehension and, among others, develops their writing and listening skills. The method used for the course is said to utilise the aural and oral language skills that children bring from home into the classroom.

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In statement Molteno’s chief executive officer Masennya Dikotla said the course, offered in all local languages, is very effective and responds to the curriculum and educational contexts. “It achieves results with the children, who in the first year of schooling, learn to read and write freely, develops their vocabulary, phonology [understanding of sounds] in a manner relevant to their life and language experiences. Also, it develops in teachers, knowledge and skills in early literacy pedagogy [the method and practice of teaching] and classroom management.”

Other benefits of Breakthrough to Literacy:

  • Sentences are broken down to make words readable and make syllables and sounds understood by children
  • Look-and-say strategies are used where children orally describe what they see on conversation posters and then, with teacher’s guidance, they write down what they described
  • It is provided individually, in pairs and small groups
  • Guides for teacher and children as well as sentence makers, sentence holders and word cards are provided to help children formulate sentences
  • Phonic posters with individual sounds as well as engaging stories help the children practise what they have learnt.
  • Teachers are trained and mentored on the method which is adaptable to all subjects
  • The mother-tongue aspect of the course makes it peerless and possible to be offered in other countries
  • Evaluation in Zambia proved a Grade 1 child can read and write at Grade 4 level after attending the course.

Details: Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy 011 484 6245; Thandiwe McCloy

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