Boost for mother tongue reading

11 September 2007

South African mother tongue education received a multi-million rand boost this week, in the form of a partnership between South Africa and the United States that will see more than R21-million spent on developing children’s books in local languages over the next three years.

The Innovative Texts in Home Languages Uniquely Based in Africa (Ithuba) project, a partnership between the Education Department and the United States President’s Africa Education Initiative (AEI), was launched at the Mathole Motshekga Primary School in Midrand, Johannesburg on Monday.

Ithuba – an IsiZulu word meaning “opportunities” – is being piloted in the Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces, where 120 books written by South Africans will be made available in SiSwati, Ndebele, Tshivenda and Xitsonga.

The project is turning participating South African teachers into authors on topics involving science, mathematics and life orientation.

According to SABCNews, the first 16 books, all authored by local teachers and targeting children in grades 3, 4 and 5, have already been completed.

Speaking at Monday’s launch, Education Minister Naledi Pandor said it was a concern that the majority of South African children were poor readers, often reading at well below their age-appropriate level.

According to a recent survey by the South African Book Development Council, only one in seven South Africans reads books.

“This is a challenge for us in education, because we know that reading is critical for learning,” Pandor said.

SAinfo reporter and BuaNews

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