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September is celebrated as Literacy Month globally, with special importance given to International Literacy Day on 8 September. As part of the festivities, South Africa also celebrates National Book Week, an initiative of the South African Book Development Council (SABDC) in collaboration with the Department of Arts and Culture. All of these initiatives raise awareness about the importance of literacy and instil a culture and love of reading. 

On Heritage Day, President Cyril Ramaphosa described the promotion of indigenous languages as an important means of preserving South Africa’s heritage. His emphasis is not only in line with the declaration by the United Nations proclaiming 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages but also laudable and appropriate in a country whose constitution protects the rights of all languages. Language has the power to promote social cohesion in South Africa’s multicultural context and can also play a fundamental part in building a human rights culture in our country.

However, there is a complex interrelationship between language, heritage and culture in South Africa and we need equitable space for indigenous languages to grow and create value. We preserve and develop language through writing, reading and speaking, and thus the role of education is central when considering how best to ensure that a range of languages flourish. 

The teaching and learning of Mathematics in South African schools is not yielding the intended outcomes as outlined in the country`s education policies, strategies and curricula. There is a large body of literature that attests to this. This includes assessment reports by the Department of Basic Education (DBE), research by universities, other research agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs)  working in mathematics education in South Africa. The low learner achievement levels revealed by national assessments such as Annual National Assessments (ANA), regional assessments such as Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) and international assessments such as Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)  are indicative, at least in part, of current ‘ineffective’ teaching and learning practices.

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COACHING AS THE KEY TO ENSURING THAT ALL CHILDREN LEARN TO READ, WRITE AND DO MATHEMATICS IN THE EARLY GRADES

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said in her budget vote speech on Tuesday (16 July 2019) that her department has prioritised improving the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy. Echoing President Ramaphosa, who set the goal in his state of the nation address that “every child should learn to read with meaning by the age of ten”, she said that the number one priority of the department is to improve the foundational skills of literacy and numeracy, especially “reading with meaning”. A related departmental priority is to collaborate with the Department of Higher Education and Training to equip teachers with the necessary skills and knowledge to teach literacy and numeracy, in particular reading. I had the pleasure of attending the Budget vote speech and Minister Motshekga added that the language issue is a key factor that influences reading and literacy outcomes and recognised that it is an emotional issue in South Africa.  She emphasized  that all eleven official languages of South Africa should enjoy equal use and enjoyment.  We at the Zenex Foundation support her position and propose that mother-tongue education is the key to building language and literacy competencies.

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Recently published in the “Opinionistas” section on the Daily Maverick news portal – read Zenex Foundation CEO Gail Campbell’s opinion piece about what The Foundation believes is a core priority for President Cyril Ramaphosa to implement in order to ensure he can achieve his goal announced at SONA. During his address, he stated that is goal is to ensure that within a decade, every 10 year old in South Africa will be able to read with meaning. Campbell outlines some points to address the nation’s literacy crisis, and some recommendations have been provided too. Click here to read the full article on Daily Maverick

The Zenex Foundation extends its heartfelt congratulations to President Cyril Ramaphosa and the newly-appointed leadership in the national and provincial departments of basic education. We were particularly delighted and encouraged by the retention of the education Minister and some provincial education MECs, particularly in two provinces in which we work (Gauteng and the Western Cape). We look forward to a continuation of our partnership with government as we work together to address key education challenges in South Africa.

 

The Zenex Foundation attended the inaugural conference of the National Association of Social Change Entities in Education (NASCEE), which took place on 28-9 May 2019 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosebank. The conference was held to launch NASCEE formally and to offer community leaders, activists and strategists a platform to come together and share insights. The theme for this event was “NPOs Working in Education: from Promise to Practice”.

Literacy and language are the foundation of all learning. It is for this reason that the Zenex Foundation has a history of committed and evidence-based support for literacy. Over the 23 years of its existence as an independent donor, Zenex has supported literacy either by way of interventions in schools; materials development and/or research. The impact of this support has been evaluated through extensive Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) and important lessons have been learnt about supporting literacy improvement at school level.

Zenex Foundation has an annual budget of R 75 million to spend on grant making and general operations. Managing a task of this nature requires meticulous attention to detail, strong leadership and ethical conduct. The man behind this task at Zenex Foundation is Paresh Govind, Director of Finance & Corporate Services.

We caught up with him to find out more about his background, passions and future aspirations. Paresh’s story is one of overcoming obstacles, making sacrifices for loved ones and pursuing a life of fulfilment. While he had a rocky start in life, his perseverance and the support of his family has seen him through.

Getting literacy right is of critical importance in South Africa. The results of the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) show that 78% of South African Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning in any language. South Africa was placed last out of 50 countries in this study (behind middle-income countries such as Iran, Chile, Morocco, and Oman) and some six learning years behind the highest performer, Russia.

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