Mr. Jankees Sligcher: District Governor for Rotary District 9400
Steve du Plessis: Assistant Rotary Public Image Coordinator Zone 20A (South)
All Senior State Officials
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for coming to attend this very important gathering namely the launch of a beautiful partnership between the Rotary Clubs of South Africa and Department of Basic Education (DBE) in support of the Read-to-Lead Campaign.
Our developmental blueprint, the National Development Plan (NDP) calls for partnerships for education reform and improved quality. The grand idea of the NDP is to create deeply reciprocal partnerships for improved learner outcomes in the public schooling sector. In this regard, partners not only work for a common outcomes but continuously learn from each other.
The NDP recognises that basic education is the cornerstone upon which a nation that provides opportunities for social mobility, equity, social justice and democracy will depend. The NDP’s vision for education and training is to ensure that all children have the benefit of a high-quality basic education regardless of background or economic circumstances. The NDP makes an important emphasise on improved learner outcomes with regards to languages, maths and science. The ultimate aim is to ensure that 90% of learners pass these subjects thus qualifying for university exemption by 2030.
Therefore our partnership launch today with the Rotary Clubs of South Africa is a step in the right direction as dictated by the NDP.
Programme Director, this launch today is a testimony to our strong belief that only through partnerships we can realise the long-term objective of an improved quality public schooling. As per the injunction of the NDP, we work with stakeholders from all walks of life. It is clear that Government alone cannot provide a decent standard of living for all; it requires determined and measurable actions from all social actors and partners across all sectors in society. More so we need partnerships in the basic education sector because it is catalyst for long-term economic growth.
Programme Director, I want to argue that the most effective strategic partnerships are where partners not only enrich each other but also find ways where they can mutually benefit. Our singular goal for any partnerships in the basic education sector is to create space for social partners and the corporate organisations to assist in realising the achievement of Delivery Outcome 1 i.e. “Improved Quality of Basic Education”. Thus, this common objective with the Rotary Clubs of South Africa is the foundation upon which our partnership is built.
Our strategic partnership with the Rotary Clubs of South Africa fits faultlessly within this framework of a mutually beneficial symbiosis. We, therefore owe a debt of gratitude to the bright sparks at Rotary Clubs of South Africa who daily work effortlessly to change the lives of our children throughout the country.
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 any 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 Campaign.
The Read-to-Lead campaign is a cradle to grave reading initiative. The overarching vision of the campaign is that a reading nation is a leading nation. This is a four-year campaign to create a national focus to improve the reading abilities of all South African children and adults.
Our ultimate objective is to ensure that by 2019 all learners are able to demonstrate age appropriate levels of reading.
The Read-to-Lead campaign is a national response to national, regional and international studies that have shown over a number of years that South African children are not able to read at expected levels, and are unable to execute tasks that demonstrate key skills associated with Literacy.
Thus, the campaign seeks to provide energy as well as direction and inspiration across all levels of the education system and beyond. These include schools, homes, churches, and malls to name just a few. We are encouraging schools, families and communities to make reading a regular and established part of their daily routine.
The importance of reading as a foundational skill has multiple benefits. Literacy as an outcome of reading impacts on society in several ways namely, literate parents are more likely to send their children to school; literate people are better able to access continuing educational opportunities; and literate societies are better geared to meet pressing developmental agenda.
Getting young people to read and write for school, for leisure, and even in the world of work, is a critical aspect of the development of the social fabric of our country. We need to ensure that South Africa becomes a reading nation. The department is currently steering the formation of Reading Clubs, Spelling Bee projects as well as Book Flood Campaign throughout the country.
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, 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 am inclined to mention that a few months back we launched the flagship project to upscale the Read-to-Lead Campaign namely, the Read-to-Lead Literacy Ambassadors programme.
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 Read-to-Lead Literacy Ambassadors are a vital extension of this ambitious and effective campaign. They are part of the campaign from start to finish, supporting the strategic objective of the campaign guided by the dictates of the National Development Plan.
The Read-to-Lead Literacy Ambassadors main thrust is to boost participation and encourage ordinary people to support the campaign. The emphasis of the campaign remains our ardent wish to promote and communicate the importance of literacy in our country through the Read-to-Lead Campaign. Indeed, as our slogan says: “A Reading Nation is a Leading Nation.”
I thank you.