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Keynote Address by the Minister Motshekga at the Ministerial Launch of Read-to-Lead Literacy Ambassador Programme held at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Johannesburg, 14 July 2017

Programme Director: Mr. Tebogo Ditshego

Trustee of Nelson Mandela Foundation: Ms. Nikiwe Bikitsha

The Nelson Mandela Foundation CEO: in absentia Mr. Sello Hatang

The Mandela team under the leadership of Mr. Yase Godlo

MEC’s and HOD’s 

Read-to-Lead Partners: Private Sector and Non-governmental representatives    

Read-to-Lead Ambassadors

Senior officials from the Department

Learners and Parents

Distinguished Guests

Members of the Media

Ladies and Gentlemen   


It is indeed my singular honour and privilege to be accorded the opportunity to be part of this important event. It is my pleasure to meet the children, parents, funders, partners and all dignitaries. We heartily thank you for honouring our invitation.

Today, I have an honour to officially launch our flagship project that will take the Read-to-Lead campaign to greater heights, i.e. the Read-to-Lead Literacy Ambassador Programme. Our singular focus is making reading fashionable again.  If we make reading a lifestyle of our children and adults, South Africa will become an oasis of intellectual snobs in a positive sense of the word.

Programme Director, it is therefore no accident of history that one of the sponsors of this today’s event is none other than the Nelson Mandela Foundation. As we all know uTata President Nelson Mandela committed his entire mortal self to the betterment of the life of children, the emancipation of the women and liberation of mankind. We could not have asked for a better partner. On behalf of Department of Basic Education and Read-to-Read partners, we extend a word of gratitude to the Nelson Mandela Foundation for playing a gracious host today.  

Similarly, I on behalf of the whole basic education sector extend a warm welcome and words of gratitude to all Read-to-Lead Literacy Ambassadors. This campaign has been such a phenomenal success such that I am unable to thank all of you individually.  I must stress that you have made a right decision not just for this current generation of learners but for the future of this country as well. Our Read-to-Lead Literacy Ambassador Programme is a star-studded line-up. I am very proud of you all. In IsiZulu we say Izindla Ziyagezana. Ningadinwa nagomuso. For my English friends, it means: "Many hands make light work," and what you have done for us please do it to others.  Salute!

Today, we take time out to recognise luminaries who have volunteered their precious time and resources to act as our Read-to-Lead Literacy Ambassadors. The objective of the Ministerial Launch is to:

  • Share knowledge and best practices in literacy promotion and in changing the status quo thereof;
  • Develop the cooperation and partnership between the Department of Basic Education, Literacy Ambassadors as well as networking on the issue of Literacy in South Africa; and
  • Establish a solidarity assembly to support Educational sustainable development projects for the benefit of grassroots communities.

Programme Director. It is therefore my pleasure today to officially launch the Read-to-Lead Literacy Ambassador Programme. Our ambassadors have generously agreed to be part of this noble initiative. We greatly appreciate your involvement in this project. As we always lament, education is indeed a societal issue. Today, more than any other proves beyond reasonable doubt that we have men and women ready to roll their sleeves up in the service of the nation.

The Role of Read-to-Lead Literacy Ambassadors

As an important part of the Read-to-Lead Campaign, eminent personalities in sport, music, art, culture, literature, community development and other fields have been asked to support the development of a reading culture among youth and the community as a whole by pledging to be reading ambassadors. The ambassadors have been requested to show their acceptance of the appointment by placing their signatures on canvas.

As an ambassador you are a vital extension of this ambitious and effective campaign. You are part of the campaign from start to finish, supporting the strategic objective of the campaign guided by the National Development Plan for Basic Education. Your support towards the campaign will be boosting participation and encouraging the nation to support the campaign. The emphasis of the campaign is to promote and communicate the importance of literacy in our country through the Read-to-Lead Campaign. “A Reading Nation is a Leading Nation”.

Ambassadors are expected to use their platform to raise awareness for the by using your influence in the space that they operate in  and highlight the importance of the campaign using their social media space to arouse the interest of the public to support the campaign.

We ask the ambassadors to speak about reading to the learners of their Alma Mater, primary and secondary school, at least once a year. You are also asked to do the same at schools in the communities where you live and work today.

Encourage people to join a public library and encourage them to get their children to join. Emphasise the importance of reading for personal and social development. Encourage parents to read and tell stories to children. Encourage people to “Drop All and Read” at home for at least half an hour every day. Adults should also read for pleasure in that time (read as a family, lead by example). Be an example to young people by highlighting the personal benefits of reading for learning and for pleasure.

You will be provided with a calendar of reading events and invited to attend events that have been scheduled in your area. Please support us by attending these events whenever possible.


The Importance of Reading

In pursuit of realising our long term goal “A Reading Nation is a Leading Nation,” we have come to a deliberate realisation that a learner’s ability to read, write and calculate is considered a vital toolkit in the pursuit of success and in managing life in general.

However, literacy or the ability to read is considered a foundational skill. Research shows that learners with higher reading competency perform better even in Mathematics.

Programme Director; to illustrate the importance of reading as a foundational skill, let me turn to three international studies that have proved beyond reasonable doubt that our focus on reading is not misplaced.

The first study involving New Zealand learners have shown that Year Five learners with the most positive attitudes toward reading generally had the highest reading achievement. And 15 year old learners who read daily for enjoyment score the equivalent of 1.5 years of schooling better than those who do not.

The second piece of research from the University of London’s Institute of Education (IOE) found that learners between the ages of 10-16 who read for pleasure made significantly more progress in vocabulary, spelling and Mathematics than learners who rarely read.

The third piece of research comes from two eminent researchers, Dr Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown – they found that:

“Reading for pleasure was more important for children's cognitive development between ages 10 and 16 than their parents' level of education. The combined effect on children's progress of reading books often, going to the library regularly and reading newspapers at 16 was four times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree.”

As a result therefore, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Council (UNESCO) has declared literacy as a human right, a tool of personal empowerment and a means for social and human development. Literacy is at the heart of basic education for all, and essential for eradicating poverty, reducing child mortality, curbing population growth, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable development, peace and democracy. The outcome of a good quality basic education is to equip learners with literacy skills for life and further learning.

To ignite the reading revolution here at home, we launched a reading initiative dubbed Read-to-Lead of which is the subject of this event today.  

Programme Director, you may recall that the Read-to-Lead Campaign was officially launched during our 2015/16 Budget Vote Debate, and will continue until the 2018/19 financial year.  The focus of the Campaign is to improve the reading abilities of all South African children, so that all our learners are able to demonstrate age-appropriate levels of reading by 2019.


The Campaign is also our response to the national, regional and international assessment studies that have been conducted during the past few years, which consistently show that South African children are not able to read and comprehend at expected levels, and are unable to execute tasks that demonstrate key skills associated with literacy.  The Campaign provides teachers and schools with clear directives on the Department’s expectations of achieving the expected levels of performance.  Whilst the improvement in learner achievement is an important aim of the Campaign, children should be motivated to make reading a lifestyle choice.  We therefore need the collective support of everyone to change attitudes and instil a passion for this critical skill.


Reading is a foundational skill on which all other learning is built; and it creates the opportunity for access to career opportunities, and for individuals to effectively participate in our democracy.  The Campaign calls on a variety of partners and stakeholders to engage in developing and maintaining a reading culture.  The Department aims to increase the average learner performance in Literacy / Language to 75% by the end of the Campaign.  In working towards achieving this aim, the Department is also hoping that, in the long-term, a culture of reading will be reflected in sustained activities in schools, homes, communities and business.  After all a Reading Nation is indeed a Winning Nation.


Programme Director, the importance of reading, especially in the earlier Grades cannot be over-emphasised.  Reading provides a gateway into all learning in subsequent higher Grades.  The “Read-to-Lead” Campaign aims to provide direction and inspiration across all levels of the education system, in our homes and in the public domain, to improve the timely acquisition of reading, and increase the amount of time children spend reading. 


The Early Grade Reading Study, which in 2016 was implemented in North West, and this year was extended to Mpumalanga, is using formal impact evaluation methods to investigate new ways to improve reading outcomes in the Foundation Phase.  The effects of these interventions are definitely beginning to result in improved learning outcomes.


Programme Director, you may recall that when we introduced the “Read-to-Lead” Campaign during 2015 Budget Vote Debate, we had committed to activate 1 000 school libraries per year.  I am happy to report that a number of our international, public and business partners, civil society, and individual South Africans have heeded the clarion call, and generously donated towards the activation and sustenance of this programme.  I am happy to announce that we have outdid ourselves as to date, over 5 000 schools have been provided with library facilities, library resources, reading materials, trolley libraries, digital resources, and even trained young people to act as library assistants.  To promote functional school libraries, 200 library assistants underwent a learnership with support from the ETDP SETA. They concluded their training in November 2016. The Gauteng Department of Education demonstrated best practise by appointing all 23 library assistants who were placed in their province in the schools where they did their learnership. We even have managed to promote the “Read-to-Lead” Campaign through digital platforms.


Programme Director, it would be remiss of us if we do not recognise the generous donations from the main contributors, such as the European Union, AVBOB, Imperial and Ukhamba Development Trust, Room to Read South Africa, Breadline Africa, Shanduka Foundation – Adopt A School, South African Rugby Union (SARU) – Boks for Books, Vodacom, Volkswagen, Via Afrika, Macmillan and many others, whose collective donations are to the tune of about R113 million.  The NECT is also playing a major role in contributing to the achievement of educational outcomes. 


It is my great pleasure to announce a ground breaking initiative from one of our partners, the Room to Read South Africa. Today, we announce the symbolic handover of 191 school libraries to the neediest and deserving schools across the country.


We are hosting this event to further invite pledges from the corporate sector, State-Owned Enterprises, international and local non-governmental organisations, and eminent persons. The need for reading materials and library infrastructure far outweigh what the fiscus can provide. We have unashamedly relied on the non-State sector to achieve the milestones I have spoken about. Words of gratitude to many of you present here today simple fail me.  In any event words are not sufficient in thanking people who are pursuing a national project that has the potential to leapfrog our democratic project to greater heights.


Programme Director, may I take this opportunity to extend my sincere gratitude to all our social partners who have contributed towards reading and literacy development through the provisioning of reading resources, setting up of different models of libraries and in addition the establishment of reading clubs and book clubs.

It is my ardent wish to ensure that every school “puts a book in every child’s hands” so that we accomplish the national goal “A Reading Nation is a Leading Nation.” In conclusion, I must emphasise that the school library remains at the heart of the school's reading culture hence our endeavour to increase the reach of library services.

I thank you.

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Written By: WebMaster WebMaster
Date Posted: 7/21/2017
Number of Views: 658

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