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Illiteracy leads to a life of crime

Cape Town - The inability to read is leading many pupils to leave school early because of being ridiculed.

After struggling to read in school, a boy from Manenberg said that due to the impediment, he dropped out of school and resorted to a life of crime.

The boy, whose identity cannot be revealed because he is a minor, said he was in Grade 7 when he was still struggling to read. 

“The kids in my class were making fun of me because I could not read. After a while, I decided not to go back to school again. At home no one was working and one day a friend asked me to go with him to Cape Town. When we got onto the train he told me that he was going to rob someone. “The next thing I saw him grabbing someone’s phone and we ran. This has become my life.”

Due to a lot of children, especially from disadvantaged communities, not being able to read, education specialists have called for a serious intervention.

Abu Solomons, a former principal of Spes Bona High School, said that for 40 years he saw how the reading culture among children was dwindling. “It is also due to the advent of technology, where everyone is on their phones and children are not reading anymore.”

Jeff Paulse from Reading and Writing Solutions said they do a lot of work in schools in terms of literacy. “This is why we started this project. When I retired I had overwhelming requests from parents to help their children who were struggling with reading.”

According to Shanaaz Mathews, the director of the Children’s Institute, South Africa has a big problem with youth unemployment, and this has an adverse impact on education.

Jessica Shelver, the spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said the department had a language development plan.

“The purpose of it is to support quality language teaching and learning. Language is vital for communicating with others and is fundamental to learning in all subjects,” she said.

“In studying languages, learners develop skills in speaking, listening reading and writing.”