Nearly 80% of grade 4 students in South Africa can’t read for meaning, according to the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRLS) study.
Meanwhile, the country’s primary education system was ranked 126th out of 138 in the 2016-17 World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness report.
It’s for these reasons that Global Citizen launched our #RaiseTheGrade campaign in April 2019, to raise awareness of the troubling quality of South Africa’s education system and to put the pressure on policy-makers to improve it.
The campaign works to call on the Department of Basic Education to expand the Early Grade Reading Study (EGRS) package to 500 schools in each of South Africa’s nine provinces by 2020, at a cost of R270 million.
And Global Citizens have been taking incredible action to support the campaign — including sending tweets, signing petitions, taking quizzes, and sending emails.
“A total of 136,031 actions have been taken since the launch of #RaiseTheGrade,” says Global Citizen’s campaign manager for Southern Africa, Thato Noinyane.
At the end of 2019, the tweets and emails you’ve been sending were compiled to create a report that we then presented to representatives from the Department of Basic Education, during a meeting to talk about raising the grade.
At the meeting, we also handed over a petition signed by more than 130,000 Global Citizens backing the campaign calls to improve the quality of education in all primary schools across South Africa.
Noinyane says Global Citizen is promoting early grade reading because it has proved to be effective.
“The Early Grade Reading Study has been rigorously evaluated and participating schools had a 40% improvement in reading outcomes,” she says.
Take the experience of teacher Elsie Chiloane, for example. After 29 years of teaching learners in underserved rural areas, Chiloane told Global Citizen: “The impact EGRS has on our children is astounding. There is a vast difference in academic performance of learners from previous years and learners who underwent this programme.”
So, what’s next for #RaiseTheGrade?
The campaign is ongoing and Global Citizens can continue taking actions with us to help improve South Africa’s quality of education, and help set young people up to succeed throughout their lives.
As Noinyane also says, there has already been some real progress made by the South African government in turning around the quality of education in the country.
“The minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga, recently announced that the department has prioritised improving the foundational skills of numeracy and literacy, as well as developing a comprehensive and integrated framework for early childhood education,” she says.
Noinyane also highlights that, while policy changes like scaling up the Early Grade Reading Study are really important, it’s also equally important for citizens to be part of the solution.
“We can’t sit back and wait for the government to get it right,” she says. “We all need to be active citizens, and lend a hand where we can.”
By taking action in support of the #RaiseTheGrade campaign, says Noinyane, Global Citizens are using their collective voices to help drive change and ensure that teachers across the country have the tools and support they need to teach effectively. That includes ensuring that children who need extra attention aren’t being overlooked in an overpopulated classroom.
The actions of Global Citizens will also help ensure that, ultimately, no child is left behind, and that there are programmes in place to support every need they encounter in their learning journey — from the right nutrition to focus in class, to being able to read for meaning.
Global Citizen is currently engaging with activists and grassroots organisations who work tirelessly in the sector to ensure that no child is left behind.
“Our aim is to continue campaigning for quality education with our partners to ensure that we see real impact,” Noinyane continues. “We have limited time to end extreme poverty, and we can only achieve it working together.”
She adds: “Global Citizen believes that educated and healthy children will lead their communities out of poverty, and build the thriving nations of tomorrow.”