Bridges to the future initiative in South Africa

Mr Dikotla Masennya  | Presentation (PDF)

Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy



South Africa and many developing countries are experiencing a literacy crisis that lead to high drop-out rates. Various assessments reflect very low levels of reading performance in South Africa. The children’s inability to read negatively affects their academic success, and their ability to gain useful information from textbooks. 

Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy (MILL) has a record of improving reading levels of children. Together with University of Pennsylvania’s International Literacy Institute (ILI), MILL has developed and optimised a unique ICT-based phonics- enriched reading instructional platform that provides multi-lingual instruction to South African children, namely Bridges to the Future Initiative (BFI). 

BFI seeks to achieve two outcomes which are in line with the objectives of UNESCO’s Mobile Learning Week. Firstly, it seeks to enhance levels of literacy for children by using information communications technologies and by engaging with children directly. Secondly, it seeks to empower teachers with skills for teaching literacy through technology and thus make learning fun, interesting and interactive. The presentation itself seeks to solicit support from policy makers and other non-profit organisations for purposes of collaboration. We would like our audience to embrace ICTs as effective instruments through which children can enjoy learning, and thus invest in them. BFI is easy to use, and taps on the power of computer-based learning – in particular, interactive multimedia (audio and visual), and enables a learner to hear, identify and manipulate phones. It provides a solid, self-managed and highly motivational way of supporting reading instruction. The innovation caters for Grades 1-3 in the basic education sector. 

It relies on computer-based learning as the most suitable medium of intervention across the contexts of diverse languages and divergent educational standards within South Africa. It is cost-effective, ensures standard quality, enables a multi-language facility, and is interactive and learner-centred. It is highly sustainable and can be re-used unlimited times. As it is aligned with the school curriculum, it offers a complementary instead of a competing solution for teachers in the classrooms. 

The innovation has the following distinct outputs: learning content; multimedia elements; expanded version of the BFI programme; expanded teachers’ guides, implementation rollout; and an empirically based plan for monitoring and evaluation. The BFI e-learning solution provides audio guidance for learners throughout; a language choice function, offers five indigenous African languages plus English; a Login functionality for purposes of learner progress tracking; an introductory tutorial that teaches the learners basic computer literacy.


Through support from the USAID and All Children Reading Grand Challenge, Molteno is currently transferring BFI from computers to tablets in order to reach more children, and make learning fun. Through this presentation we will share our experiences with our global partners with the hope that they can replicate the entire model, or at least some parts of it. We are aiming to reach 50 000 children in the next two years. 



Mr Masennya Dikotla is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy. He is a teacher by profession having taught at a secondary school for 7 years. He worked as a teacher trainer for 4 years before joining the Limpopo Department of Education as a senior manager. He left government in 2000 to join an American NGO, RTI International, as a deputy education director. He has published several academic papers. He is currently serving on the National Commission for UNESCO in South Africa. 


Twitter: @Molteno_SA


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