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South Africa’s call for concern

Discover the pressing issues and the nation's quest for solutions.

In 2016, the PIRLS study revealed that an alarming 78% of Grade 4 students in South Africa struggled to comprehend what they read and write. With the additional setbacks caused by the pandemic, our progress toward the 2030 literacy goal has taken a severe hit. It’s a daunting reality that the pandemic may have erased an entire decade of advancements in reading skills. If we consider the learning loss estimates and the hypothetical return to our pre-pandemic improvement path, we’re looking at a staggering 86 years from 2023 until all Grade 4 children can read effectively in South Africa, essentially reaching the year 2108. This crisis necessitates substantial reforms in teacher recruitment, training, certification, support, and evaluation, as well as extensive changes in education financing and school resources. Without these reforms, the goal of ensuring all children read by age 10 by 2030 remains a lofty aspiration.

From 2010 to 2022, various government and NGO-led initiatives were deployed to enhance early-grade reading outcomes. Some of these programs were assessed for their impact, while others were designed to gauge improvements in reading skills. In 2018, Miss World South Africa Sasha-Lee initiated the “Learn to Read, Learn to Lead” campaign, which focuses on fostering literacy among South Africa’s youth and her approach extends beyond teaching the fundamentals of reading, writing, and counting; it also tackles critical social issues like bullying and child trafficking.

Since its inception, Sasha-Lee authored two children’s books: “How Tata Got His Name” and “How Tata Learns to Read,” followed by “How Tata Learns to Count” and “How Tata Handles Bullying.” These books are not just stories but potent tools for narrowing educational gaps and empowering children to unlock their full potential. Through this campaign, we provide access to reading materials, learning resources, and mentorship.

Sasha-Lee’s commitment led to a partnership with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, allowing her to educate children in underserved and underdeveloped regions. Through this collaboration, “Learn to Read, Learn to Lead” has distributed hundreds of copies of these books, and it has even been launched internationally in Bulgaria, where it has been integrated into the Department of Education’s initiatives.

As an ambassador for Breadline Africa, Sasha is deeply involved in projects aimed at significantly upgrading early childhood development centres, classrooms, libraries, kitchens, and sanitation facilities in underprivileged communities and they recently made a donation and provided “Learn to Read, Learn to Lead” books to support this initiative and is actively engaged in fundraising efforts for this ongoing project.

Sasha is steadfast in her commitment to effecting change and firmly believes that by joining forces, we can reshape the educational landscape of South Africa. While the challenges are formidable, with unwavering determination and collective action, she believes we can ensure that every child has the opportunity to read effectively and realise their full potential.

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