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‘Children struggling to read and understand, a cause for concern’

todayMay 17, 2023 277

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A girl who can’t understand a difficult book/Illustration material (Vector Illustration)
Independent Education Expert, Professor Mauvia Gallie, says teachers should not take responsibility for the low learner reading ability, instead the blame should solely lie with the Department of Basic Education.
Yesterday, the International Reading Literacy Study released a report that has left South Africans concerned, as it showed that over 80% of children in Grade 4 cannot read for meaning in any language.
This dismally low figures were last seen in 2011.
“There is a continued misaligned intention between with reading inputs in SA with the assessment of poles,” says Professor Gallie.
“Reading for meaning is a reference to the vocabulary of the learners. We don’t have a structured process of how many words our learners need to learn and understand for each of the foundation phase grades, meaning grade 1-3,” he adds.
Education Specialist, Professor Mary Metcalfe, says the ability to read confidently should be established in the first three or four years of a child’s schooling career and is fundamental to education success.
She says children’s inability to read has far reaching consequences, as it also contributes to the high drop out numbers in schools.
In 2020, Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, revealed that more than 300 000 children dropped out of primary schools across the country over a six-month period, during to the school interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Amnesty International South Africa’s Spokesperson, Mienke Steytler, says the pandemic only exacerbated the problem as the country has long been contending with problem of learners dropping out of school.
“The DBE must develop a time-bound, measurable and transparent plan to respond to this crisis,” she says.
Amnesty International SA says the recent unemployment stats are also a cause for concern, as they painted a bleak picture of the reality of thousands of the country’s youth.
On Tuesday, Stats SA revealed that 36.1% of 15 to 24-year-olds are not in employment, education or training.
Amnesty International says if the government wants young people to participate in the economy it needs to ensure that every child, is given a quality basic education.

“Young people should no longer bear the brunt for the government’s failures,” adds Steytler.

Earlier this year Gauteng MEC for Education, Matome Chiloane, revealed that out of 2 513 350 learners that the department enrolled in 2021, only 2 252 291 returned to school in the 2022 academic year in Grades 1 to 12.
Of the 110 381 learners who were lost in the system, 53 935 are of school-going age.
Prof Gallie warns that if the children in the foundation phase are not assisted, they are bound to struggle reading properly in every other grade.

Written by: Nokwazi Qumbisa

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