Each year on 8 September, World Literacy Day is a stark reminder of the need for more literate societies that will lead to greater equality in education and employment. According to Our World In Data, 14 percent of the global population over the age of 15 years are illiterate, while, closer to home, 20.7 percent of South African adults aged 35 to 64 years are unable to read or write.
Being able to read and write is essential for human development and provides individuals with skills that empower them to improve their standard of living and become positive contributors to society. Additionally, owning books is a high-impact, cost-effective and immediate way to provide children with a measurable advantage at school and later in life. If all South Africans were sufficiently literate, they could participate in the formal economy and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita would increase by 30 percent, says a local study.
This World Literacy Day, you can make your own contribution to helping improve literacy and education in South Africa through the following great initiatives.
Book Dash x Santa Shoebox Project
These two non-profit organisations (NPOs) have teamed up to ensure children in impoverished and under-resourced communities have access to educational and recreational books. The collaborative project aims to print and add 100 000 books to Santa Shoeboxes in 2020. This year is particularly special as the Santa Shoebox Project will be reaching its millionth child during the 2020 campaign. Book Dash's innovative model is based on 12-hour sprint events with creative teams who volunteer their time to write, illustrate, design and edit books at no cost, allowing more children access to quality content.
South Africa's diverse population also presents many challenges, not least a lack of minority language learning materials. Biblionef is the only book-donating organisation that supplies children with books in all 11 of South Africa's official languages. The organisation actively works with publishers and writers to commission books in mother tongues such as isiZulu and Tsonga. This year, Bilblionef will distribute 1 500 books in Zulu and English to 10 primary schools in KwaZulu-Natal as well as host workshops with the selected schools' teachers that provide practical examples of how to engage learners in storytelling and incorporate the donated books into the curriculum.
Shine Literacy offers literacy support programmes in primary schools across the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal. The organisation has also established seven Shine Centres that focus on individualised support to children in grades 2 and 3 as well as 27 Shine Chapters, franchises of the model, across the four provinces. Throughout 2020, Shine Literacy is providing reading resources to children at their seven centres through their Words Can Change Worlds campaign. In 2021, the organisation hopes to start distributing resource packs to schools on a monthly basis. Through their programmes, which you can also support through the purchase of a Relate bracelet, Shine helps to transform the prospects of some of South Africa's most vulnerable children, by breaking the destructive cycle of poor literacy.
All these organisations are beneficiaries of MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet, South Africa's leading community loyalty programme. To support one or more of these initiatives, simply sign up for your free MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet card at myschool.co.za or download the App and select up to three causes. Each time you shop at Woolworths, Loot.co.za, Bidvest Waltons or Builders, a donation will be made on your behalf – at no additional cost.