Literacy in South Africa PDF Print E-mail

The Kha ri Gude Mass literacy campaign

 The South African Literacy Campaign launched by Minister Naledi Pandor, is intended to enable 4,7 million adults to become literate between the 14 April 2008 and the end of 2012. It is through this campaign that the developmental state welcomes new learners to the portals of learning.

Kha ri gude, Tshivenda for let us learn, invites those adults who missed out on their schooling and who cannot read or write, to join one of about 20 000 literacy classes that will be held all over South Africa and which will start opening their doors on the 14 April.

The Kha ri Gude literacy campaign is a response to the call for a national campaign to end illiteracy among South African adults. As a programme of government, and as one of the Apex programmes announced by President Mbeki in his 2008 State of the Nation address, the Campaign can be seen as one of the important ways in which the developmental state prioritises the needs of the poor and addresses the right of all citizens to basic education in the official language/s of their choice.

The campaign, resulted from the recommendations of the Ministerial Committee on Literacy and is intended to provide the opportunity for 4,7 million South Africans to become literate. Achieving this target would also mean that South Africa will have fulfilled its 2000 Dakar commitment -- that of reducing illiteracy by 50% by 2015.

In order for a national programme of this magnitude to reach its target, the Campaign requires voluntary support from a wide range of people and organisations drawn from all sectors of society and across all provinces, who will assist in establishing learning sites around the country, help to recruit literacy volunteer educators and work with them to recruit learners 

 What kind of plan is it?

The campaign is conceptualised as an integrated one in which all activities will have coherence. It is a single campaign and not a conglomeration of individual programmes or projects run by a variety of different agents delivering literacy instructions in whatever way they wish, using their own materials, methods and staff. There will be one campaign, and the organisational structure in its registration of learners, appointment of tutors, coordinators and other personnel will be one. There will be state provided materials and stipends will be paid to the estimated 40,000 tutors who will be needed to teach groups of illiterates each year. Coordination, monitoring and research staff will also be paid by the campaign which will be coordinated by a National Kha Ri Gude unit. Learners will be recruited according to quotas proportionate with provincial need.




The campaign is intended to address more than the basic learning needs of the poor. It is the intention that, through literacy, people might more fully participate in the government’s developmental programmes and enjoy the benefits of our young democracy. The extended benefits of literacy will also go a long way toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on poverty reduction, women’s empowerment, HIV and AIDS eradication and environmental conservation. It would in fact be difficult to achieve our developmental goals without addressing the literacy challenge. In addition to being a human right, education is also an enabling right, since it creates the conduit through which other rights might be claimed and protected.

The methodological approach and the need to simultaneously develop literacy materials in all eleven official languages made it necessary for a writing team comprising African language experts, phoneticians and linguists to ensure that the literacy materials were co-developed and simultaneously versioned. This ensured the mediation of cultures and the accuracy of linguistic structures while allowing the enrichment that comes from the intercultural group context. The writing team was supported by an editorial, artistic, photographic and design team whose didactic, editorial and educational design gave structure and life to the materials. The Kha ri Gude learners’ materials address clear learning outcomes for basic alphabetization and the acquisition of sustainable literacy in the learners’ first language. Literacy is presented in all official languages – Tshivenda, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Sepedi, Setswana, Xitsonga, Sesotho, Afrikaans, siSwati, isiNdebele, English – and in Braille (presently in production), and has been adapted for use by the deaf.

The Campaign focuses on the special learning needs of the disabled and has trained 60 sign language teachers to enable deaf adults to learn to read and write. Braille materials are in the process of development. In addition, the Campaign will tailor its outreach to accommodate the needs of the range of disabilities. 


The methodology: An integrated methodological approach is used drawing on the benefits of the language experience approach while taking seriously the recent developments emanating from neuro-cognitive research into how adults learn to read. In line with this research, the programme undertakes to enhance the visual literacy and perceptual skills learners need to “handle” a range of graphics. It also aims to develop automaticity by addressing the mechanics of reading, phonemic awareness, letter–sound relationships and word analysis. At the same time it is ensured that the contextualisation and the rudiments of a language experience approach have not been compromised. Each lesson includes pictorial codes which encourage discussion around the key sentence which is taught. Moreover, the organising themes encourage learners to think about related social issues and to make applications to their lives and contexts. The thematic approach: Learning outcomes are immersed in content which is relevant to learners’ motivation and everyday lives, in contexts where skills at this level will support independent living and broaden the choices and opportunities available to adults. Theme topics are: 

  • A B C
  • I am learning
  • My family, my home
  • Living together
  • Health
  • The world of work
  • Mother Earth
  • Our country and the world around us

Supporting the volunteer educator: A programme of this magnitude relies on voluntary support. For this reason, the materials have been designed specifically for mass-delivery and campaign purposes with the recognition that the volunteer educators will have limited teacher training. The materials offer a step-by-step, icon-guided sequence of bite-sized activities to guide the educator.