Minister Motshekga in denial about reading crisis and state of Basic Education

Issued by Baxolile 'Bax' Nodada MP – DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education
19 Jun 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Baxolile ‘Bax’ Nodada MP.

The DA notes Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s comments yesterday, minimizing the horrifying Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) results, which revealed that only 1 in 5 grade 4 learners could read for meaning.

It is distressing that the Minister and her Department fail to realise the travesty of nine and 10-year-olds that cannot understand what the letters on the page and the sounds they make mean. If you do not understand what you are reading, you cannot read.

The Minister has also consistently failed to address the fact that 56% of grade 6 learners cannot read for meaning at a grade 4 level.

Despite the DA’s numerous requests, the Minister has not provided budgeted reading or catch-up plans. Only the Western Cape has budgeted for and tabled catch-up and reading plans – R1.2 billion in total, with R111 million for reading particularly in isiXhosa and Afrikaans schools.

More than 69% of South African schools do not have libraries, according to the last National Education Infrastructure Management System (NEIMS) report. Of the 30% of schools that do have libraries, only 17% are stocked, which essentially pushes the number of libraries down to a mere 14%.

While the DA supports a whole of community approach to addressing the country’s various problems, parents and communities cannot shoulder the burden of teaching learners how to read in the first place and understand what they read moreover.

The Minister did however indicate that learners who received their education in their mother tongue achieved better results than those learning in a second language. Given the fact that this has once again been demonstrated, it seems unfathomable that the Minister and her Department would push for the implementation of the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, which seeks to minimise the involvement of parents and communities in their children’s education by disempowering school governing bodies (SGBs) from making admission and language policies for their schools and could be used to target mother tongue schools.

It is time the Minister took the education of children seriously – blaming the Covid-pandemic only accounts for a fraction of the problems. Her neglect is robbing them of vital foundational skills crucial for their futures. If Minister Motshekga can’t turn the situation around, she should simply resign.

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