Is five years enough for a culture of reading and literacy to be instilled across South Africa?
The basic education department thinks so.
Director of learner teacher support material, Kulula Manona, says the department set the five-year plan as a short-term plan toward actualising a culture of reading and literacy across South Africa.
“We don’t want to just see literate learners but we hope to witness a culture of reading that extends to pleasurable reading.”
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga will reveal the names of South Africans who are pioneers in various fields including sport, art, music, politics and business, who have been chosen to become Reading Ambassadors on Friday at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Johannesburg.
The ambassador programme is said to be part of a four-year reading and library services campaign called the Read to Lead campaign.
Manona said: “The selection of the ambassadors was informed by their diverse influence and impact in various fields. We also chose accomplished ambassadors that are great voices of literacy.”
Having officially launched on July 22 2015 the campaign was aimed at creating a national focus to encourage an improvement in the literacy of all South African children by 2019.
“South Africans don’t read and the pleasure of reading is concentrated in the upper segments of society. Learners’ poor performance is an attribute of their attitude to reading,” said Manona.
She added that the Read to Lead campaign has been mobilising various community members, including non-governmental organisations and private institutions that have assisted in the establishment of libraries, librarians and reading resources.
“We have also encouraged the presence of the religious community in the campaign because of their presence in society and the large constituency they represent.
“And tomorrow Room to Read [a non-profit organisation focused on girls’ education and children’s literacy in Asia and Africa] will be announcing that they are donating 191 libraries to schools.”
The department says it regarded reading as a foundational skill that affected children’s learning experiences and a skill that would create the opportunity for access to career opportunities and for individuals to “effectively participate in a democracy”.
The department aimed to increase the average pupil performance in literacy to 75% by the end of the campaign.