It’s a fact — investing in education is one of the most effective ways to end extreme poverty, empower communities, and boost economic growth. South Africa has made significant improvements in providing access to education including an increase in the number of children enrolled in school  –– but the harsh reality is that the quality of education has remained poor.

A shocking recent study revealed that 78% of children in Grade Four cannot read for meaning in any language. The South African curriculum stipulates that learning to read for meaning is a critical skill to develop in primary school. This clearly exposes a huge disconnect between the goals of the current education programme and how it is being delivered.

If a child cannot understand the words they are reading — how are they ever expected to catch-up and score good grades in high school?

There is a solution. The Department of Basic Education conducted pilot programmes in over 200 schools in the North West and Mpumalanga. The Early Grade Reading Study (EGRS) is a dedicated package of reading resources that includes an expert reading coach to visit teachers in their classrooms, provide lesson plans, and improve reading outcomes. Participating schools witnessed an incredible 40% improvement in reading outcomes, and this was acknowledged by President Ramaphosa in his recent State of the Nation Address.

It is clear that we need to act quickly to ensure every South African child has the chance to escape a life of poverty. Call on the government to #RaisetheGrade and prioritise expanding this package.