Initiative tackles illiteracy and hunger in SA

Following the report by the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study that 81% of Grade 4 learners in South Africa cannot read for meaning in any language, various initiatives have been implemented to push change.

It was also found that South Africa ranked the worst out of the 43 countries surveyed.

In addition to the staggeringly large number of children in South Africa who lack basic literacy abilities, it is reported that millions of youngsters die hungry because they do not have access to nutritious, consistent and sufficient food, resulting in high rates of malnutrition across the country.

In working to address these national crises, HOPE Worldwide South Africa, an NGO focusing on early childhood development (ECD), recently launched the Book & Breakfast Initiative (BBI).

Dr Marc Aguirre, country director for HOPE Worldwide South Africa, discusses their goal of reaching 10 000 children in impoverished communities across South Africa over the next three years.

“For just R110 per month, you can unlock early childhood potential through nutrition and literacy. Imagine the impact: a full tummy to focus on learning and experience the joy of reading while having ideas and imagination ignited by new stories. The BBI aims to reach 10 000 children in disadvantaged communities across South Africa over the next three years.”

Aguirre says their mission is to provide young, vulnerable children with a daily nutritious breakfast porridge and a new, age-appropriate book every month.

“A child who can’t read can’t learn, so they will be less likely to finish school and get a job to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. With little education and few prospects of employment, a young person has little to do and look forward to, putting them at greater risk of substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, shame and frustration. If one can’t support themselves, they are more vulnerable to pursuing crime to survive or suffering abuse as they are financially dependent on their abusive partners.

“Our overwhelming, heartbreaking child hunger and illiteracy statistics are stunting childhood development, hindering learning and education and dimming the light of their future potential.”

It is also discovered that a contributing factor to the challenge of illiteracy among children is their limited access to literature. According to a study conducted on behalf of Unicef South Africa and the Department of Basic Education, 43% of households said they had no access to books at home.

South African social impact publisher Book Dash highlights that families are more inclined to read aloud to their preschoolers on a regular basis when the children have books of their own.

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