7 November 2023 – In working to address one of South Africa’s biggest crises – our child illiteracy crisis – HOPE worldwide South Africa, the Dis-Chem Foundation, Pan Macmillan and Phoenix International Logistics recently joined forces to deliver wonderful books to children at Kopano Day Care Centre in Zandspruit, a township in Johannesburg.

The importance of this initiative cannot be overemphasised as 81% of Grade 4 learners in South Africa can’t read for meaning in any language. This is according to the latest Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) released in May. The country ranked lowest out of the 43 participating countries in learners’ reading skills.

Not being able to read for meaning means being unable to read and understand clearly stated information in simple and easy text. Reading is the foundation of all learning, so if children can’t read with understanding, they will struggle throughout their schooling and be less likely to pursue tertiary education, greatly increasing their risk of being unemployed and perpetuating the cycle of poverty. If they can’t read, they won’t be able to take themselves, their families, their communities and our economy forward.

As part of contributing towards giving children the best possible future, Grade R learners at Kopano Day Care Centre were each given two captivating books, namely We Are One written by Refiloe Moahloli and First 100 Words. Refiloe read the children an extract from her book, Yes Yanga! And then sang a song, about being champions, with hand movements that left them enthralled!

We Are One, First 100 Words and Yes Yanga! are all published by Pan Macmillan. The printing of books handed to Kopano Day Care Centre Grade Rs was funded by Phoenix International Logistics and the Dis-Chem Foundation.

Dis-Chem Foundation’s Jacqueline Kahlberg, says: “There are many children without access to books. It falls upon us who have the means to play a part in assisting to upskill them in any way we can to give them the best possible start in life. There are children who will be reading books tonight who wouldn’t have been reading last night.”

Kopano Day Care Centre is just one of many ECD centres across South Africa receiving support from HOPE worldwide SA and its partners. The centre has received support from HOPE worldwide SA over the past 15 years. In addition to benefitting from the book drive, the organisation also regularly provides Kopano Day Care Centre with nutrition, and it has also donated LEGO, a kitchen, table, chairs and a new toilet to the centre. Additionally, HOPE worldwide SA also provided a ceiling, roofing and tiling for one of its classrooms.

Girlies Makgoba, the manager of the centre, says: “I’m very happy with the support we have received. It has put us where we are today. I’m excited about the kids getting books. It will motivate them to keep reading once they get to Grade 1 next year.”

Girlies was asked to encourage parents to read the books to their children at home and use them to practice their children’s reading. This way, their reading skills will be enhanced and they will be encouraged to develop a love for reading, which will open them up to new worlds, opportunities and possibilities.

Dr Marc Aguirre, Country Director for HOPE worldwide South Africa, says the book handover highlighted the power of partnerships and how we can leverage our collective strengths and resources to address the dire crisis of illiteracy in our country. “It was amazing to watch the children dive into the books and see their hunger for learning and reading.”

Terry Morris, the Pan Macmillan Managing Director, adds that it was great seeing the excitement books can bring to a child and stressed the importance of creating more interventions like this one for scale up.

Operations Director of Phoenix International Logistics, Varusha Govender, is fulfilled by her organisation’s donation towards printing the books. “South Africa’s illiteracy statistics are absolutely shocking. Reading opens the gateway for many possibilities for kids to have a better future and we can make a significant impact by investing in children at an early age.”

Going forward, HOPE worldwide SA will continue partnering with these like-minded organisations, united in collective action, passion and drive, to deliver far-reaching interventions to address our reading crisis. Additional books will be distributed to other preschools in the near future.

HOPE worldwide SA wants to assist as many vulnerable children as possible. If you would like to partner to bring hope by changing the lives of young, vulnerable children, please consider donating to HOPE worldwide South Africa at: https://hopeworldwidesa.org/donate-now/

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