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Teaching children to read must become the number one priority says Angie Motshekga

Bonile Khanyi

Reading at lower grades must become a priority said basic education minister Angie Motshekga on Monday. She was speaking at the opening of the third annual education lekgotla held at the Saint George Hotel in Irene, Gauteng.

Referring to the results of the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), Motshekga said the outcome was disappointing and far below the expectations the sector set for itself.

“The 2016 results tell us that the need is just as relevant today and we must make reading the number one priority in the sector.”

Motshekga said the department would look at the quality of schooling in lower grades.

The three-day event’s theme is “Equipping Learners 20th Knowledge and Skills for a Changing World’’.

As such, Motshekga said the lekgotla’s main focus should be: “making conditions conducive for the children of South Africa to access their basic right to education without any impediments”. 

Motshekga referred to a report by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) which revealed an increase in the number of learners who entered the education system over the past several years.

“According to Stats SA’s Education Series Volume III: Educational Enrolment and Achievement, 2016 – Attendance of pre-school has increased from an estimated 949 000 in 2002 to 2 059 000 in 2015. Attendance of Grade R has increased from an estimated 686 000 in 2010 to 1 222 000 in 2015 indicating that policy measures aimed at increasing participation in early childhood development are beginning to bear fruit,” said Motshekga.

She also said the number of pupils who completed Grade 12 at the age of 15 and above, increased by 2.3 million over the last two decades.

“The completion of Grade 12 by population aged 15 and more has increased from an estimated 3, 7 million in 1996 to 11, 6 million in 2016; and completion of higher educational institution by population aged 15 and more has increased from an estimated 1, 3 million in 1996 to 3, 6 million in 2016,” said Motshekga.

Motshekga also called on all South Africans to celebrate President Nelson Mandela’s legacy.

“This year, as we celebrate the Madiba’s centenary, we shall intensify our efforts to realise his vision of a united South Africa in which all live in peace with equal rights and opportunities,” said Motshekga.

“We shall celebrate his centenary not only as the people of South Africa, but also as a continent and as the broader global community.”

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