01.09.2016 - Education Sector

Volunteers give a second chance to older literacy learners in South Africa

© Department of Education

"As a child, I knew there was a school where people went to learn to read and write, but I never got the chance to do the same. When I heard about this project I registered in a heartbeat," said student Lizzy Mathebula, 59.

Ms Mathebula is one of many success stories from the South African Department of Basic Education’s  ‘Kha Ri Gude Mass Literacy Campaign’ which has been awarded the 2016 UNESCO Confucius Prize for Literacy.

The campaign works by recruiting volunteer and so far 40,000 community-based coordinators, supervisors and educators have been engaged to run the literacy courses per annum. They teach at 35,000 community-based learning centres across the country as well as in informal venues such as backyards, local churches and even bus-shelters if necessary.

The result is that 90 per cent of more than 4 million adult learners who enrolled in the programme between 2008 and 2015 gained a certificate of completion for the course, the opportunity to pursue their education and increased chances of employment.

Dr Morongwa Ramarumo CEO of the campaign said: “I am very proud and happy for all the people who support this programme but mostly for the volunteers because the success of the programme is down to their commitment and passion.”

“Many of the learners are receiving an education certificate for the first time in their lives. We are not only giving them literacy and numeracy but are putting them one step ahead and building social cohesion.”

New skills bring independence, self-confidence and work

The success stories include one group who, armed with their new skills, formed a bakery and provide bread for a school nutrition programme as well as selling their products elsewhere.

In the fertile Limpopo Province another group started to grow vegetables to sell and also to provide food for those with HIV AIDS. Women in Tzaneen formed a singing group because of the programme and tour weddings funerals and churches.

Student Ms Kgothatso Khotse said: “I am from a very disadvantaged background and I have my grandfather, mother son and cousin to look after. Thanks to the programme I was able to go to college to obtain a BA degree in psychology. Now I will take my PGC to become a teacher. And I will be able to educate my son.”

For Lizzy Molebale, 69, from Pretoria numeracy allows her to calculate her pension money for herself.

“I no longer get robbed of my money by children when I send them to the shops, I can calculate my money correctly. I can even go to the bank by myself, without asking for my children’s assistance,” she said.

Dickson Mnisi, 67, the only man in the class and the school's security guard, said: "When I'm on night shift, I always make sure I catch up with what they learned while I was on day shift.”

He is particularly pleased to be able to write his full name for the first time instead of signing with an ‘x’.

Since the inception of the programme, more than four million illiterate South Africans have benefited from the courses in all nine provinces in South Africa. The classes are free of charge and adapted to the location availability, abilities and mother tongue of learners.

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