250m School Age Kids Unable to Read

At least 250 million of the world's 650 million primary school age children are unable to read, write or do basic mathematics.

According to a report commissioned by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), 130 million children are in primary school but have not achieved the minimum benchmarks for learning, and almost 120 million have spent little or no time in a classroom including 57 million youngsters who are not attending school.

South Africa’s Real Level of Literacy

According to the 2012 General Household Survey (GHS) conducted by Statistics South Africa, the adult literacy rate is qualified as the self-reported ability to read and write short sentences.

However, researchers and independent analysts warn that these general statistics can lull one into a false sense of security regarding the real levels of literacy in South Africa.

UNESCO: No Education for Marginalised Groups

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) says that some marginalised communities, including the San people of Southern Africa, still do not have access to formal education.

The agency argues this lack of education makes it difficult for them to contribute to the economic development of their communities, countries and the region.

It also states that most of the world’s 370 million marginalised indigenous people - representing approximately five percent of global population – do not have access to education.

SA Leads Neighbours on Absentee Teachers

University of Stellenbosch researcher, Nick Spaull, says teacher absenteeism in South Africa is twice as high as that of Namibia and Botswana, and three times higher than Mozambique’s.

In a policy brief this week, Spaull, points out that this chronic absenteeism is partly to blame for South African children’s poor performance in subjects such as mathematics and literacy compared to their mostly poorer neighbours.

4.7 Million Adults Illiterate in South Africa

Official figures show that about 4.7 million adults in South Africa are illiterate and about 4.9 million adults are functional illiterate who left school before Grade 7.

In light of this, the Department of Arts and Culture is in partnership with a number of stakeholders to encourage a culture of reading, as part of National Book Week.

The department's director-general, Xaba Sibusiso, points out that the purpose of the National Book Week is to encourage the culture of reading and writing in the country – given the low literate rates in certain parts of the communities.

Initiative to Help Slash Illiteracy

The Stellenbosch University has announced a new initiative to help slash illiteracy rates in South Africa.

The organisation ‘Words Open Worlds’ or ‘WOW’, which has been distributing books in rural and disadvantaged communities, has reached around 30 000 people since the beginning of 2011.

WOW’s Fiona Van Kerwel says too many South Africans are simply not able to lay their hands on books.

“The main problem is South Africa I would say is the accessibility of people to resources,” Van Kerwel.

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