Expert panel convenes to get all SA children reading as part of 2030 goal

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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
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  • A panel of experts and civil society leaders will be tackling child literacy.
  • The panel will review if South Africa is able to have all children reading by age 10, by 2030.
  • An estimated 78% of Grade 4 children are not able to read for meaning.


A panel of experts and civil society leaders has been convened to ensure all South African children can read by 2030.

The panel, established by former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, was formed in response to "the dire need to improve reading outcomes among South Africa's foundation phase (grades 1 to 3) school children". The 2030 Reading Panel will be launched on Tuesday, and its first sitting is expected to take place on 31 January and 1 February.

The 2030 Reading Panel is a civil society initiative that brings together respected experts and thought leaders to address the issue of reading skills among South African children. Its express aim is to help meet the national goal of ensuring that by 2030, all children can read for meaning by age 10.

An estimated 78% of Grade 4 children are not able to read for meaning in any South African language.

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Mlambo-Ngcuka said:

The ability to read and write is one of the hallmarks of personal development required for economic progress, political participation and self-expression, and is therefore the most important skill to learn during primary school.

The panel comprises 19 respected individuals – from a range of backgrounds – whose experience and expertise will help shed light on what is needed to improve literacy in South Africa. They include Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, Elinor Sisulu, Professor Michael Sachs, Bobby Godsell and other South African leaders.

The panel said it will provide long-term apolitical leadership to improve reading and mathematics at South African schools.

"The panel's goal is to review whether or not South Africa is on track to reach the 2030 goal, and what needs to change to ensure we do get there. That includes reviewing government plans and spending priorities to determine whether there is sufficient attention and resources allocated to this critical issue. Given the status and authority of its members, the panel's reports and recommendations are likely to be taken seriously by Parliament, the Presidency and the Department of Basic Education," said Mlambo-Ngcuka.


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