Helping learners realise wealth of reading


Efforts are underway to ensure learners in Limpopo schools realise the true meaning of the Sepedi idiom – go bala ke lehumo [reading is wealth].

The National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) through the National Reading Coalition (NRC) is pioneering projects to promote the establishment of reading clubs in the Sekhukhune and Waterberg regions.

The NRC is part of a coalition led by the NECT working with schools, teachers and communities to help address the challenges associated with reading and literacy.

SA learners face serious challenges in their school work as a result of not being able to read pproperly.

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) report 2016 which found that 78% of grade 4 learners in SA could not read for meaning [they don’t understand what they are reading].

SA was placed last out of all 50 countries who participated in PIRLS 2016 with Limpopo and the Eastern Cape the poorest performers with scores below 300 points.

PIRLS assesses reading comprehension and monitors trends in reading literacy at five-year intervals and has assessed fourth year reading comprehension in over 60 countries since 2001.

Last week the NECT and NRC organised a dialogue under the banner Reading for Meaning in Driekop, Sekhukhune in Limpopo recently.

Teachers, learners, principals, traditional leaders and councillors had gathered in the Sekhukhune village to discuss ways of improving and entrenching reading at schools and in communities.

“Our children continue to perform poorly in reading. This means they can’t perform other tasks in other subjects. Children can’t work out mathematical problems if they can’t understand what the statement requires,” said Onnica Dederen, deputy director in the department of education in Limpopo.

NRC national project manager Bailey Nkuna told the gathering that when they visited rural Limpopo schools to assess whether learners were embracing the culture of reading they were often told there weren’t books available.

But upon raiding the school’s store rooms they would be met by dozens upon dozens of books gathering dust.

“They would claim the books are outdated and not recognised by the DBE [department of basic education]. But we encourage them to use them to use them to encourage the culture of reading,” Nkuna said.

“This problem [poor reading culture] is not only a teacher or parent problem,” said Nkuna, adding that one of the goals of the coalition is to ensure that the reading challenge must have been resolved significantly by 2030.

As part of ways to find solutions to the problem the NECT and the NRC have started reading clubs in four districts of Limpopo in which learners are given reading cards to record the titles of books they have read.

The project also targets various sectors including taxi drivers, health institutions, churches and traditional leaders.

Nkuna argued that every sector of society should be encouraged to read in order for children to also adopt that culture.

“In some areas when a taxi driver sees a learner in the streets during school hours they take that learner to school. So why can’t taxi drivers also be used as part of promoting this culture of reading?” said Nkuna.

He suggested that reading should permeate every sphere of society including a visit to the clinic where a parent taking a child for medical examination should read during the waiting period.

“The child must also be given a book to read. Children need to see teachers and adults reading. They can’t be expected to read when the adults and teachers don’t read,” he said.

Last month President Cyril Ramaphosa in collaboration with the NRC launched a reading circle which offers book lovers a chance to share their views on books with the country’s first citizen through the chat service on the site.

In his State of the Nation Address in June Ramaphosa announced that all foundation and intermediate phase teachers will be trained to teach reading in English and African languages.

He said through the NRC government will train and deploy a cohort of experienced coaches to provide high quality on-site support to teachers. – Mukurukuru Media

Thapelo Motseo

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