SA Literacy – What’s Trevor Noah got to do with it?

South Africa is making little headway in its attempts to avert the reading crisis. The country is currently in a #CodeREaD status where eight out of 10 children can’t read and only 14% of South Africans are active readers.

South Africa’s reading crisis has been an ongoing issue and several strategies have been proposed to improve literacy in South Africa. Some of these include promoting a culture of reading; encouraging parents to read to their children (only 5% of parents in SA read to their children); making books accessible in schools; and improving initial teacher education. 

International Literacy Month in the country is commemorated with National book Week between 2 and 8 September 2019, which is an initiative aimed at encouraging young South Africans and parents to value reading as a fun and pleasurable activity, and to showcase how reading can easily be incorporated into their daily lifestyle.

In support of this, the British Council South Africa, Trevor Noah Foundation, ACTIVATE!, and the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) hosted a #CodeREaD breakfast aimed at promoting youth literacy and digital literacy in South Africa on 19 September 2019.

 

Creating Opportunity for South Africa’s Youth (COSY) Programme Manager, Itumeleng Dhlamini says literacy skills promote the acquisition of competencies that enable people to thrive as functional citizens in society. “These days, literacy is not just about the ability to read and write, but it is the pre-condition for development. It enables us to be educated, to participate in the economy and to engage in the socio-political issues.

The event brought together a range of social innovators, amongst these were ACTIVATE! Change Drivers, an organisation made up of a network of 3,230 young social innovators who are driving positive change in their communities throughout South Africa.

ACTIVATE!’s Mzwandile Msimang says the organisation is pleased to be part of the initiative. “

Trevor Noah Foundation programme manager, Onthatile Ditshego, says the power of the partnership lies in the opportune intersection between reading and the promotion of indigenous South African stories such as Trevor Noah’s book, which is a relatable and authentic story of growing up in a diverse and complex South African context and family.

The attendees of the #CodeREaD breakfast discussed how they hope to start a literacy movement in the country. Some of the agreed outcomes/action plans included:

  • Start an online book club that can be tracked via digital and social media platforms.
  • Nurture an interest in reading amongst parents to increase curiosity and reading in children.
  • Literacy show roads in rural communities as a platform to promote literacy amongst parents and children, followed by the creation of book clubs and instituting reading competitions.
  • Inclusive reading using different mediums
  • Writing competitions to encourage young people to read and write; teach a child – each one, teach one
  • Host an event follow-up webinar for key stakeholders to identify challenges and possible solutions; create action plan
  • Enlist government and other public sector bodies to provide resources to support parents in helping their children read – across all languages
  • Parents and family need to buy books instead of toys for their children.
  • Support local youth writers by purchasing local books once a quarter before re-group at the next #codeREad breakfast #buylocal #readlocal

“We are critical stakeholders in changing the narrative about literacy and digital literacy amongst South Africa’s youth. We urgently need to find solutions and commit to making a change,” concludes Dhlamini.

**The event is funded by the European Union as part of the Creating Opportunity for South Africa’s Youth (COSY) Project delivered by the British Council.

Issued by Eclipse PR on behalf Creating Opportunity for South Africa’s Youth (COSY)

Jessica@eclipsepr.co.za