Let’s all read together

The campaign to get South Africans reading kicked off last month with, among other materials, a colourful poster featuring school children, a lawyer, a newspaper vendor, a taxi full of passengers – and men and women from a variety of backgrounds.

The poster captures a bus whizzing past with “HIV/Aids Be Wise Condomise” emblazoned on the side.

Everyone in the poster, drawn by award-winning artist Tommy Motswai, is reading or clutching material to read.

Getting South Africa reading is one one the goals announced by Professor Kader Asmal when he took over as Education Minister in June 1999.

The South African Literacy Initiative is responsible for driving the Masifunde Sonke (Let’s All Read Together) campaign. The work of art promotes reading. If South Africa is to realise the vision encapsulated by the words Masifunde Sonke – Let’s all read together – then a joint effort on the part of every South African is necessary.

At last month’s launch, Asmal called on South Africans to participate in the campaign.The situation at present tilts the scale of equality in favour of those who are equipped with literacy skills. With three million adults alone who are completely illiterate, only the elite few who have the necessary skills to perform their work functions competently can actually hold down a job. The others cannot cross the financial divide for they are isolated by the literacy barrier and lack of education.

Not only does this prevent people from participating and contributing to the economy but it also stymies the growth of the economy. Furthermore people are barred from having a voice and rights in a democracy by virtue of the fact that illiterate people are ill-informed. Freedom of choice becomes null-and-void in this case.

In learning about important issues such as HIV/Aids it is imperative that individuals have access to information. This includes what causes the virus, how it is transmitted and how to prevent acquiring it. With illiteracy levels also high and functional literacy -where one’s learning and writing skills are underdeveloped – the situation is exacerbated.

The situation is not all gloom and doom. A little effort goes a long way and the campaign is the first step in the right direction. Masifunde Sonke aims to stimulate reading and writing so that it becomes entrenched in South African culture. The foundation has been laid with the Department of Education’s launch of the South African National Literacy Initiative (SANLI). Campaign organisers have already garnered support from the media, publishers, booksellers and NGOs. Another essential component for success is to get schools, colleges, workplaces, libraries, local authorities and local communities involved.

Even the little people can contribute positively to engendering a reading culture in South Africa. One can start a community reading programme, work with those who cannot read or sponsor trips to the local library – all it requires is initiative and a little effort.

But as Asmal points out, it is initiative and effort well placed. Remember you will be doing more than just reading. You will be writing an exciting new chapter in South Africa’s progress.

Details about the campaign can be found at: http://education.pwv.gov.za/masifunde

— The Teacher/Mail & Guardian, January, 2001.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Roshila Pillay
Guest Author

Coalition politics and law: The fight over Tshwane

With coalition politics on the rise, particularly in local government, this kind of court case is likely to become more common

High court declares Dudu Myeni delinquent

Disgraced former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni has been declared a delinquent director by the...

SANDF inquiry clears soldiers of the death of Collins Khosa

The board of inquiry also found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango who caused the altercation with the defence force members

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Press Releases

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday