South Africa

 

Working against racial inequality and poverty, Room to Read South Africa offers a comprehensive Literacy Program that combines home-language classroom instruction with high-functioning libraries. We partner with the Department of Basic Education, schools and communities to make a lasting impact.

Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved. Support Our Work

Overcoming the Legacy of Apartheid

Despite South Africa’s relative economic success, the country’s apartheid era left a legacy of inequality and poverty that still plagues a large portion of its population today. From 1948 to 1994, the white-minority government separated races and resettled hundreds of thousands of citizens. After a negotiated settlement, President Nelson Mandela and his new government attempted to implement major social change and fuel job creation. However, the majority of South Africans still struggle with a lack of opportunity, high crime rates, and the spread of HIV/AIDS. Roughly a third of the population still lives below the poverty line.

Our Work in South Africa

Room to Read began working in South Africa in 2006. Our Literacy Program responds directly to the dire need for teacher training in literacy, for school libraries, and for reading materials across many official languages. We have implemented our model in the provinces of Eastern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and Gauteng, while publishing materials in all eleven of South Africa’s official languages. Our Literacy Program aligns closely with the government’s educational policies and priorities, and to date in South Africa we have reached 469 schools, 1,021 teachers and 362,180 students.

Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved. Support Our Work

The Struggle Continues

Apartheid rule remained deeply imbedded in South Africa’s educational system until the 1994 elections. Vast differences between black and white students in teacher-to-student ratios, school infrastructure, availability of books, and required attendance robbed black students of their right to a quality education. During the anti-apartheid struggle, the fight for liberation took precedence over schooling, impacting negatively on teaching and learning. Although the democratic government has made significant strides since 1994, more than two decades later such differences persist.

Held Back: The Black and the Poor

In the first few years after the end of apartheid, the new government implemented policies to improve education opportunities, school quality, and racial equality within the education system. Almost universal access to primary and secondary education has been achieved. Unfortunately, the overall quality of education in South Africa still needs improvement – as evidenced by national and international measurements in key subjects such as literacy and numeracy.

Poor, black children suffer the most. Only 14 percent of South Africa’s black students finish high school, compared to 65 percent of white students. Inadequate school conditions and scarce teaching materials limit learning opportunities for children of color, especially in rural and densely populated urban areas. Schools lack appropriate reading materials, with UNICEF reporting that 78 percent of government schools do not have libraries. Instructional quality often suffers because many primary school teachers need better subject knowledge and pedagogical skills. Additionally, illiterate caregivers cannot easily help their children with homework, which further hinders literacy development.

In recent years, with primary school enrollment at around 100 percent, the country’s focus has shifted to improving educational quality, particularly for early-grade instruction – where Room to Read intervenes. The National Development Plan 2030 contains a series of proposals to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality. A quality basic education for all is one of this plan’s key goals.

Thus the struggle to improve the education system continues today. In the words of South Africa’s first democratic president, Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved. Support Our Work

Government Collaboration to Improve School Libraries

In order to improve literacy learning in South Africa through our work since 2006, Room to Read continues to build strong ties with the South African government. For example, the Limpopo Provincial Department of Education has acknowledged the contribution of our program by selecting 95 of our library volunteers to participate in one-year paid Library Management internships. The National Department of Basic Education has appointed Room to Read as an implementing partner for its Read to Lead campaign, aimed at establishing or refurbishing 1,000 school libraries annually. At both provincial and national levels, Room to Read delivers effective improvements in the skill and habit of reading while influencing policy for future impact.

Validation of Our Work

We have been recognized for our publication of storybooks in the home languages of the children we support, including UNICEF’s prestigious Best Early Childhood Development Publication of the Year Award. Results from our first evaluation of grade 2 students’ reading skills reveal our program’s positive results. The Minister of Basic Education noted the impact of our early work in one of the poorest provinces in the country.

Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved. Join Our Team

Room to Read South Africa
Brooklyn Office Park, Block C80
488 Fehrsen Street Brooklyn
Pretoria 0102, South Africa

Phone: +27-12-346 8731

More local information coming soon!

Community Investment

A library in South Africa brings parents and teachers together.

Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved.
Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved.

2x

Second grade students in Tsonga-language Literacy Program schools read twice as fast as students in nearby control schools.

2x

Second grade students in Tsonga-language Literacy Program schools read twice as fast as students in nearby control schools.

11 languages

Our 62 original children’s books include stories told in 11 languages—from isiZulu to Sepedi

11 languages

Our 62 original children’s books include stories told in 11 languages—from isiZulu to Sepedi

The Latest from South Africa

Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved.

Growing a Love of Reading in South Africa


November 03, 2016

Literacy, Africa

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Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved.

#ThankstoEducation I Can Use My Skills to Encourage Kids to Read


November 07, 2015

Literacy, Africa

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Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved.

As a Child, Reading Meant Getting a Lashing if She Made a Mistake. Now Nomonde E...


August 26, 2015

Literacy, South Africa

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Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved.

How You Can Graduate From Primary School and Still Be Illiterate


May 21, 2015

Literacy, Africa

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Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved.

The Results Are In: Libraries Matter.


March 14, 2015

Literacy, India

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Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved.

He was a teacher in Soweto during the student uprising: Here's what he has to sa...


June 20, 2014

Literacy, South Africa

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Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved.

Meet Phumza: Volunteer Teacher and Witness to South Africa's Future


December 23, 2013

Literacy, Africa

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Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved.

Madiba Tribute


December 10, 2013

In the News, South Africa

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Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved.

Guest Blog from South Africa: Witnessing Real Impact in South Africa


September 10, 2013

Literacy, Africa

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Video Blog: Taking Literacy to New Heights in South Africa


August 16, 2013

Literacy, Africa

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Room to Read is a leading nonprofit for children's literacy & girls' education programs at work in South Africa. Learn more, donate, or get involved.

In South Africa's Eastern Cape, Library Doors Open up a World of Opportunity for...


January 11, 2013

Literacy, South Africa

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