South Africa is suffering from another regression at a time when we could really do with some positive news. This time, we are told that 81% of our Grade 4 pupils cannot read for meaning.
This was revealed in the 2021 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study report.
Researchers found that the majority of our Grade 4s cannot read properly in any language.
Following the 2016 report results, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga requested that researchers dig deeper to find the root causes of pupils’ challenges around reading.
The researchers found that most African language schools had declined in performance in 2021, highlighting that the Covid-19 pandemic had increased inequality between no-fee and fee-charging schools.
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But the pandemic is no longer a factor. We cannot use it as an excuse. Could it be public schools’ lack of resources including books and teachers? Or are we missing something else?
It is a reality that in some households reading books is not taken seriously, parents are either too busy or too tired from work to help their children read and study, or there are simply no adults in the household.
Child-headed households are the reality of many pupils. Perhaps it’s time that communities became more involved in raising their children.
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The starting point could be for school governing bodies to pay attention to not only finances and infrastructure issues, but also actual learning.
We could also mobilise unemployed youngsters to get involved in schools and be active in our communities.