South Africa

Republic of South Africa

After the British seized the Cape of Good Hope area in 1806, many of the Dutch settlers (the Boers) trekked north to found their own republics. The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) spurred wealth and immigration and intensified the subjugation of the native inhabitants. The Boers resisted British encroachments but were defeated in the Boer War (1899-1902). The resulting Union of South Africa operated under a policy of apartheid – the separate development of the races. The 1990s brought an end to apartheid politically and ushered in black majority rule (CIA Factbook).

Illiteracy in South Africa-The Legacy of Apartheid

South Africa has 12.3-million learners, some 386,600 teachers and 26,292 schools, including 1,098 registered independent or private schools. Of all schools, roughly 6,000 are high schools (grade 7 to grade 12) and the rest primary (grade 0 to grade 6). However, there is a huge literacy problem left by 40 years of apartheid education. Under that system, white South African children received a quality schooling virtually for free, while their black counterparts had only “Bantu education.” Education was viewed as a part of the overall apartheid system, which included the “homelands,” urban restrictions, pass laws and job reservation. The role of black Africans was as labourers or servants only.

Illiteracy rates are high at around 24% of adults over 15 years old (6- to 8-million adults are not functionally literate), teachers in township schools are poorly trained, and the matric pass rate remains low. While 65% of whites over 20 years old and 40% of Indians have a high school or higher qualification, this figure is only 14% among blacks and 17% among the coloured population (Source:

So South Africa is in the midst of an education revolution, especially in its rural areas. Schools are being supported and new ones are being constructed all the time. But these schools lack books; in many there are no school libraries (Empty libraries close the book on reading), not even rudimentary collections for classroom use. And this is the typical story for practically the entire countryside where the Black majority of the population resides.

Finally, it must be noted that there are real problems as students progress through the educational system. According to UN statistics (UNICEF,4th Annual Women’s Parliament Conference Cape Town 2007) children attending school at the primary level go from 96% to 70% at the secondary level, then on to a drastic drop of 7% participation at the college level.

GLP in Gauteng Province (With Fountain Baptist Church, Summit, NJ, USA)

Global Literacy Project Sites (2006-2010)

Thelma Tate Library

The Thelma Tate Library/Community Learning Center is located by the Carrol Shaw Memorial Centre, a facility on 56 hectares at Witfontein, in Randfontein, West Rand.

This library will be the base of operations for our outreach to a village located above it. There are some 30 children from low income families living in the village. GLP intends to work with them over the next five years in an effort to see what impact our “Culture of Reading” strategy can have. Our hoped for goal is to give them the kinds of proficiency to eventually do well in South African matric exams.

Above are Reverend Zacharia Motaung and three children in the new children’s library created by GLP volunteers.

Pelonomi Children’s Home

Located in Jouberton, and headed by Pastor Jeremiah Nyembe. This home cares for orphaned children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS, violence or who have been abandoned.

Supported Schools

Randfontein Region

  1. AB Phokompe Senior Secondary School, Mohlakeng
  2. Bulelani Primary School, Mohlakeng
  3. Malerata Primary School
  4. Matlapaneng Primary School
  5. Setholela Primary School
  6. Tswelelo Primary School
  7. Zuurbekom Intermediate School in Zuurbekom

Kagiso Township

  1. Itireleng  School for the Disabled

Soweto Township

  1. Fidelitas Secondary School
  2. Thabisile Primary School