CDF believes that South Africa’s Smart Townships of tomorrow will be led into the future by the Smart Kids of today. Today’s Smart Kids are tomorrow’s Smart Citizens and Leaders. What does it mean to be a Smart Kid? Smart Kids are digitally savvy. There is much groundwork yet to be done in paving the way for primary school children who live in South Africa’s townships to become Smart in the digital sense of the word. Just to get out of the starting blocks children must know how to read for comprehension – not just how to ‘parrot’.
South Africans are held hostage by a literacy crisis
South Africa has a worrying lack of literacy skills – particularly among primary school learners as revealed by the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy (PIRLS) study which tested the reading comprehension of learners in their fourth year of primary schooling. This study ranks South Africa in last place out of 50 countries and found that 78 percent of South African learners at this level within primary education could not read for meaning.
The world is closed for those who are not literate
This is of monumental significance to the future economic success of South Africa as almost all avenues of learning and development are a closed door to people who cannot read for comprehension. It is understood that addressing the problem by increasing access to books, and providing programmes aimed at developing a reading culture among children and their parents is helpful – but only to a certain degree. More importantly, primary school teachers need support, through effective teacher education, in understanding the importance of reading for meaning and then in effectively teaching literacy. Striving to deliver higher quality teacher training, building future teachers’ ability to teach literacy, is a great step in the right direction.
Online and local content can encourage a love of reading in and beyond the classroom
Teachers in the field, once they have been made aware of the importance of teaching literacy, need access to ongoing training for themselves, as well as literary material that will grab the interest of their learners. There is a wealth of such training material to be found online. In terms of engaging the hearts and minds of primary school learners, the power of introducing them to a wide variety of literary genres through mediums that included comics, e-books, short stories, online articles and magazines should not be ignored. These are all available to teachers on online – and in the absence of tablets or a laptop computer are accessible in the classroom through their smartphones – but connectivity is essential.
Connectivity in the classroom is a valuable tool in getting kids ready to become Smart
Today’s pre-schoolers will enter the workforce around 2035. We do not yet know exactly what their future world will be like, but we do know they will continue to need the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. When it comes to teaching children in their early development years to be literate, connectivity is one of the tools that can make a significant difference in equipping our teachers with ongoing training and teaching material.
We dare not ignore the fundamental issue of a lack of literacy skills in South Africa among our primary school learners. To do so would spawn a generation who, for the most part, will not be equipped for the workplace and who have the bar set very low on their potential for ongoing learning and development – all which include necessary digital skills. Connectivity in the classroom is but one tool in our arsenal to precipitate change – but an important one to consider as we pave the way for South Africa’s primary school learners to become Smart Kids.