In many countries, the 1st of June is International Children’s Day and with its origins stemming from the World Conference for the Wellbeing of Children, held in Geneva in 1925, this day serves as a wonderful reminder to us all that literacy is at the very core of children’s wellbeing around the world.
Poor literacy affects the very fabric of society, starting with the family unit and how children are raised, through to employment of the parents, and how children are fed, clothed and cared for. It is the thread that runs through the education of those very children, and one that either bodes well, or badly for their futures.
A recent study by the Central Connecticut State University shows that South Africa is ranked as one of the most illiterate countries in the world (sitting in 56th position out of 61 countries).1 Another study indicates that a staggering 58% of Grade 4 learners in South Africa cannot read for meaning, while 28% are completely illiterate.2
As a South African non-profit organisation dedicated to bring about change, READ Educational Trust focuses on encouraging literacy across the country. READ has made remarkable headway in working towards this goal since its inception in 1979.
Various activities and programmes are used to further literacy, and READ is particularly pleased to share details of its latest venture, being the Learning Centre Programme. This programme is aimed at providing after-school educational support to communities where there is a gap in infrastructure and after-care.
It is common knowledge that an effective after-school programme can boost academic performance, reduce risky behaviours, promote physical health, and provide a safe, structured environment for children.
The READ Learning Centre Programme has two approaches. The one is aimed at empowering Early Childhood Development (ECD) workers, primary school learners and parents, while the other is aimed at school and community learners. The first has been piloted in rural settings across Limpopo, while the latter has been successfully implemented in urban settings across Cape Town.
In Cape Town, learners went through an acclimatising process where they realised that their positive attitudes and polite behaviour yielded a fruitful, enjoyable time. These centres help children with reading and writing. They have regular access to books which is wonderful. Attendance grew over time and the community is eager to implement similar centres within various other community centres.
The Limpopo Learning Centres were established not only to help children improve their reading and writing skills, but to assist with homework as well as to empower parents to better help their children. Professional development training is also given to ECD practitioners who have previously been involved in various READ projects.
Fewer disciplinary problems have been noted in these rural settings, where the need is great and the support structure in dire need of improvement. Gratefulness abounds and READ hopes to expand this exercise across a greater area.
READ is very reliant on the support of various private and corporate funders, without whom the literacy dream would be impossible to fulfil. This International Children’s Day the READ Team encourages greater awareness of the illiteracy plight, and encourages the involvement of many more patrons across Southern Africa.
To find out more about READ, visit www.read.org.za Join the conversations on:
2 Spaull, N. (2016a). Learning to Read and Reading to Learn. Policy Brief. Research on Socioeconomic Policy (RESEP). (Online). Available: www.resep.sun.ac.za (from the article: http://help2read.org/2016/09/13/sobering-state-literacy-south-africa#_ftn9)