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Over 80% of South African children around 10 years old have difficulty reading (study


Over 80% of South African children around 10 years old have difficulty reading (study)

According to a recent international study released on Tuesday, it has been revealed that over 80 percent of South African children around the age of 10 face challenges in reading and comprehending written text simultaneously.


Education Minister Angie Motshekga expressed her disappointment with the results, highlighting the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls), which has been conducted every five years since 2001.


The study indicates that 81% of South African primary school students in the fourth year, approximately aged ten, struggle with reading, a higher percentage compared to the data from five years ago (78%). The Education Minister also attributed the exacerbation of illiteracy to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, stating this at a conference held in Pretoria.

Minister Motshekga further pointed out that many elementary schools in the country focus primarily on oral performance during reading instruction, disregarding reading comprehension and the understanding of written words.

In addition, numerous schools in South Africa, the most industrialized nation on the continent, suffer from inadequate resources such as textbooks, libraries, proper infrastructure, and even sanitation facilities.

Despite the end of apartheid three decades ago, the country continues to bear the consequences of the historically inadequate education system imposed on the majority black population during the segregationist regime.

Another contributing factor to the struggle with literacy is that many grandparents and parents themselves have limited reading abilities, making it challenging for them to assist their children in learning to read.


Among the participating countries in the study, South Africa, Morocco, and Egypt were the representatives from the African continent, with South Africa being the sole sub-Saharan African nation involved.

The findings of the study shed light on the persistent educational challenges faced by South Africa, emphasizing the urgent need for comprehensive reforms. The government, educators, and society as a whole must recognize the gravity of the situation and take concerted action to address the root causes of this literacy crisis.


Improving reading instruction in elementary schools is paramount. The focus should extend beyond mere oral performance and encompass reading comprehension and the meaningful interpretation of written words. By adopting evidence-based teaching strategies and providing professional development opportunities for teachers, South Africa can enhance the quality of literacy education across the country.


Furthermore, tackling the resource deficiencies in schools is crucial. Access to textbooks, well-stocked libraries, and adequate infrastructure are fundamental rights that every child deserves. Investing in these resources not only facilitates learning but also nurtures a culture of reading and intellectual curiosity among students.


The government should also prioritize the provision of necessary support systems for struggling learners. Interventions such as literacy support programs, remedial classes, and tutoring initiatives can make a significant difference in helping children overcome their reading difficulties. Collaboration with community organizations, NGOs, and volunteers can supplement these efforts and ensure a holistic approach to literacy development.


Addressing intergenerational illiteracy is another vital aspect of combating the problem. Adult literacy programs can empower parents and grandparents with the necessary skills to actively engage in their children’s education. By breaking the cycle of illiteracy within families, South Africa can pave the way for a brighter future where every child has the opportunity to thrive academically.


The study’s focus on South Africa among African nations highlights the need for regional collaboration and knowledge-sharing. By engaging with other countries on the continent, South Africa can learn from successful initiatives and tailor approaches to its unique challenges. Building networks and partnerships that foster educational advancements can accelerate progress and create a unified front against illiteracy.


As South Africa strives for economic growth and social development, it must recognize that a well-educated population is the bedrock of a prosperous society. By prioritizing literacy and committing to comprehensive reforms, the country can empower its youth, bridge educational gaps, and forge a future where every child can unlock their full potential.


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My name is Ernest Arthur, a writer for MyNewsAfrica under the stage name Ernest East. I was born and raised in Dunkwa-On-Offin, a small town in the central Region of Ghana. As a journalist, I hold myself to high standards of accuracy, fairness, and integrity in my reporting. I'm committed to upholding the principles of journalism and to bringing transparency and truth to the news. Today, I stand tall as one of Ghana's most respected journalists, and I'm proud to have contributed to the growth and development of the country's media landscape. I'm excited about the future and can't wait to continue sharing stories and making a difference through my work. Email: Watsap:+233553678245