National Literacy Campaign: briefing

Basic Education

09 May 2000
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


9 May 2000


Documents handed out:
Extent of the Need for ABET (attached to end of minutes)


The National Literacy Agency has been set up by the Minister of Education to address the problem of illiteracy in South Africa. Representatives from the National Literacy Agency gave a presentation on the National Literacy Campaign.

National Literacy Campaign
Ms Gugu Nxumalo provided information on the current state of illiteracy in South Africa. According to Statistics South Africa, there were about 23 699 930 adults between the ages of 16 and 65 in South Africa in 1996. Of this number more than 3 million have never been to school and about 9 439 244 have not completed Grade 9. From these figures, it is deduced that about 54% have not completed an adequate level of education. To deal with this problem there was a need for a differentiated strategy with the mobilisation of the entire country. She said their policy for dealing with illiteracy included:
- building a fully functioning integrated system,
- appropriate structures for collective ownership and responsibility,
- the required capacity to deliver and
- improving access to political and economic resources.

She said that their approach was divided into two phases. The first phase is to develop the structures, systems and capacity of the agency. The second one is the mass scale provisioning of programmes and services to learners.

In explaining the need for a campaign to fight illiteracy, Mr John Samuels referred the committee to the Minister of Education's nine-point priority list which included the need to stamp out illiteracy. An international meeting in Dakar on tackling illiteracy came up with the Dakar Declaration - which was an undertaking to reduce the number of illiterates. Despite this undertaking, new revelations are that the number of illiterates has actually gone up rather than come down. He said the government planned to reduce illiteracy by 50% by the year 2015.

He said that their actions to reduce illiteracy coincided with international trends. The Minister of Education was setting up the Agency to work in part with the Department of Education, but independent of its constraints, and to be managed by small directorate accountable to him. Mr Samuels added that the Agency would be based in all sectors of the nation. For effective delivery, partnerships would be created. There would be active localisation of programmes in order to reach the people on the ground. About 50 000 volunteer educators will be trained during the next five years in order to escalate provisioning. Further the South African Broadcasting Corporation would speed up delivery of literacy programmes. He also emphasized the importance of post-literacy support. He said that they were going to link literacy to instrumental needs such as linking it to primary health care, community development and so forth.

Mr S Ntuli ( ANC): How far are we in terms of Phase 1 and 2? Can you give more light on curriculum content?

Ms G Nxumalo: We have increased the number of educators trained; Phase one is continuing.

Ms M Njobe: What form does the campaign take? How do people get to know about the project? How is Labor participating in this project? Do we have the resources to train 50 000 volunteer educators?

Mr Samuels: We are not looking at professionalising these educators. We are looking at a six week training programme - thereafter the trainee will be able to participate in ABET (Adult Based Education Training). There is a problem with resources but this will be dealt with by the coming Bill. We also plan to ask provinces for money especially for ABET. Labor is part of the project.

Professor Repingwa (ANC): We are talking of a complex problem. I seem not to understand the strategy. How is the campaign going to be coordinated and synchronized? How much will the project cost? Regarding regulation and monitoring: will this be covered in the legislation?

Ms Gugu Nxumalo: The challenge is huge indeed but we must start
somewhere despite the challenges. The cost is fairly enormous but we are trying to generate confidence in the project in order to gain funding. Our biggest concern is the conditions of employment for the educators. They are working for six hours a week and it takes long before they are paid.

Mr M Ellis (DP): What is the commitment of provinces to this campaign. Is the Minister satisfied with the role of the provinces?

Mr J Samuels: There has not been much emphasis on adult education in the provinces who have been busy organising schooling in the past five years. We are confident that the provinces will play their role because of the legislative obligation on them.

Mr M Montsitsi (ANC): Are the materials used relevant to the target learners? Do you any relationship with the Department of Labor?

Ms G Nxumalo: The context of the materials are relevant to the learners and they are developed in consultation with the respective centres. Our projects are done jointly with the Department of Labour.

Ms E Gandhi: Does anyone monitor and check the literature from overseas to find out if it is relevant to South African needs?

Ms Gugu Nxumalo: Yes, we check all materials used.

Are you sure about the commitment of learners? What happens if learners do not participate?

Ms G Nxumalo: There are many reasons for learners dropping out of programmes such as the relevance of programmes. Some learners join programmes for specific needs like reading or writing after which they leave the programmes - not because they are dissatisfied.

Appendix 1:

According to Census '96 figures released by Statistics South Africa, there are 23 699 930 adults between the ages of 16 and 65 in South Africa. Of these, 3 283 290 have not accessed any schooling and 9 39 2 have not completed Grade 9. Thus, 12 722 53 (5%) of the total adult population have not completed a general level of education.


From policy to implementation......


An organising framework to build:

· a fully-functioning, integrated system

· appropriate structures for collective ownership and responsibility

· the required capacity to deliver

· access to political and economic resources


The Plan proposes TWO PHASES:

First Phase

· Develop the structures, systems and capacity of the sector

Second Phase

· Mass scale provisioning of programmes and services to learners


During 1998 & 1999 the following actions are proposed:

· Relatively small increases in learner enrollments

· Development of the curriculum framework

· Introduction of learning unit standards

· Introduction of learner support materials

· Establishment and development of a Monitoring and Evaluation system

· Enhancing practitioner standards and quality of delivery

· Enhancing assessor standards and quality of assessments

· Establishing and transforming current providers into a network of adult learning centres

· Establishment of the quality assurance system


· 2,5 million learners by the year 2001 as the collective contribution of all the role-players

Large enough for impact, small enough to be attainable - after all we would have had time to prepare!


....and Provincial Departments of Education?


· Literacy Unit

· Management Information System

· Resource Mobilisation

· Quality Voluntary Service

· Programmes and materials development

· Training of educators and volunteers

· Advocacy


- ABET Policy and Legislation

- Execution of Multi-year Implementation Plan

· Develop and implement ABET curriculum

· Establish and maintain monitoring and evaluation system

· Practitioner and governing body development

· Structures for, co-operation and co-ordination

· Quality ABET delivered on a large scale

· Delivering skills related strategic interventions

- Advocacy



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