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In South Africa 78% of children do not learn to read for meaning by the age of 10. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has convened the annual '2030 Reading Panel' to bring together respected South African leaders to ask: "What needs to change for us to ensure that all children learn to read by 2030?"



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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Former Deputy President of South Africa

Founder of the Umlambo Foundation. Served as the Executive Director of UN Women until Aug 2021. During her term as Deputy President she oversaw programmes to combat poverty and bring the advantages of a growing economy to the poor, with a particular focus on women.

“78% of children in Grade 4 cannot read for meaning in any language, that is a red flag.”

- Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Reading for Meaning

The ability to read and write is one of the hallmarks of personal development required for economic progress,
political-participation and self-expression. According to the nationally-representative 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), 78% of grade 4 learners could not read for meaning in any language. Although there have been some improvements in reading outcomes, at least pre-pandemic, at current rates of progress we will only get to all children reading for meaning in South Africa by the year 2103.


The panel’s goal is to review whether or not South Africa is on track to reach the 2030 goal, and what needs to change to ensure we do get there. That includes reviewing government plans and spending priorities to determine whether there is sufficient attention and political will dedicated to this critical issue. Given the status and authority of its members, the panel’s reports and recommendations are likely to be taken seriously by Parliament, the Presidency and the Department of Basic Education.



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