This year-on-year increase in literacy was made all the more compelling against the backdrop of seismic political activity and technological disruption. Literacy rates from the 1980s rose energetically from around 75 percent to 90 percent in the first two decades, with incremental progress thereafter in line with government’s investment in education. The literacy rate then dropped by 7.32 percent between 2015 and 2017.
This contraction of literacy rates in South Africa is expected to continue, perhaps even accelerate when one foreshadows the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on the education sector.
Another unfortunate consequence is that the younger grades hardest hit by COVID-19 are also the most crucial in establishing the building blocks of literacy.
Literacy is a human right and the foundation for all learning, and through literacy one is able to lower other socio-economic barriers. Without effective policies and strategies regarding literacy, the economic divide will continue to widen – this ultimately starts a vicious cycle which further reduces the opportunities for employment.
World Literacy Day on 8 September reminds us of our own responsibility to prevent further collapse of the country’s essential literacy programmes, and to admire the vigorous efforts of non-profit organisations like Rally to Read, which is assisted by individuals and corporates, including Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA).
“Many of the challenges faced by our country and its citizens can be traced back to a level of illiteracy, but they often go by unnoticed or ignored. Literacy remains a powerful platform that opens up doors to new opportunities that didn’t exist before,” says Neale Hill, MD of FMCSA.
“We believe that by attending to the country’s literacy rates at the earliest stages, we can help create a brighter future for all South Africans. In celebrating World Literacy Day, Ford is committed to help each learner that we directly or indirectly touch through the Rally to Read programme contribute to the next written pages in a united and educated country.”
According to a recent study done by the University of Cape Town, a lack of access to reading materials and textbooks are two of the main reasons that 78 percent of South African children in grade 3 still can’t read for comprehension.
The study continues: “An education system has the responsibility to deliver two essential things for a just society: improve the quality of learning and narrow the gap between students doing well and students doing badly.” said education expert, Professor Mary Metcalf. “Ultimately, children need resources – textbooks for learning and other books for reading pleasure. And to help them grasp subjects and improve their level of understanding in various learning areas, teachers need to conduct lessons in a language that children understand.”
Improvements in literacy rates is a long and gradual process and depends heavily on initiatives like the annual Rally to Read event to deliver educational books into the hands of the youth.
Rally to Read is a flagship programme of the READ Educational Trust, founded in 1998, and spearheaded by now retired McCarthy Motor Holdings CEO and philanthropist, Brand Pretorius.
Since 1999 FMCSA has proudly associated itself with this worthy cause by supplying Ford Rangers to the project, and last year provided a financial donation of R1-million.
FMCSA’s three-year partnership with Rally to Read will enable the support of 10 project schools in Mpumalanga, a READ trainer, resources for the schools and a Rally weekend to visit schools and deliver the learning resources.
“Education provides the foundation for community empowerment and upliftment, and the rural areas of South Africa face the biggest challenges in terms of the quality of teaching available, and the resulting poor levels of literacy amongst learners,” says Bertus Matthee, National Director of the Read Educational Trust.
“We are extremely grateful for the support from Ford, as its active participation and backing of the Rally to Read project will create crucial building blocks for under-equipped teaching staff to provide better education for our current learners and future leaders,” Matthee adds.
Nationally, Rally to Read covers six school districts across five provinces, and the selected schools receive these educational books in protective ‘box libraries’. It’s in the transporting of the ‘box libraries’ – across terrain that varies from rocks to riverbeds – where the Ford Ranger’s payload and 4×4 capability excel. Every year these books are replaced by more advanced textbooks and reading material in order for literacy levels to continue to evolve and remain age appropriate. Teachers are also tutored on literacy and language methodologies by dedicated READ trainers.
To see how you can get involved in supporting this initiative, please visit: www.rallytoread.co.za