CIE on World Catholic Education Day: “Help little ones read”

The deputy director of the Catholic Institute of Education (CIE) has called on Catholics to help children read.

A 2021 survey titled Progress in International Reading and Literacy Study (PIRLS) summarised by Professor and author Nick Spaull has shown that the majority of South African grade 4 learners cannot read for comprehension. In a message shared with the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) communications office, Anne Baker called on “all Catholics to help little ones read. Whether through reading to a neighbour’s children or starting reading clubs in parishes, we can make a difference.”

“Today’s world catholic education day comes at a somber time for education in South Africa,” said Ms. Baker in the message for the 22nd World Catholic Education Day observed annually by most countries on the Day of the Ascension.

Ms. Baker further said, “The release of the 2021 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study showed that 81% of Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning in any language, up from 78% in 2016. This means that only 19% of South African Grade 4 children could read for meaning in any language in 2021, all 11 languages.”

JHB Catholic Schools Office Grade 11 Mass. 16.05.2023. Credit: Sheldon Reddiar

Meanwhile, in a separate message shared with the SACBC communications office, the Chairperson of the National Catholic Board of Education Fr Hugh O’Connor has encouraged parents to assist learners at “home with reading,” and has also called on communities to reflect on how they “can help as communities.”

“Can we sit back and be complacent? How can we assist our learners at home with reading?  How can we help as communities? How can we involve ourselves in our schools,” said Fr O’Connor.

The SACBC Secretary General further said, “Next year there are elections for School Governing Bodies in South Africa.  If you have a child or children in school stand for election and above all make sure you vote.

“We cannot stand by and let children leave school who will be unable to enter the emerging economy dominated by specialized skills that require reading for understanding,” he added.

JHB Catholic Schools Office Grade 11 Mass. 16.05.2023. Credit: Sheldon Reddiar

Catholic schools serve more than 61 million children in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools globally. The South African Catholic Schools network is one of the smaller networks in Africa with some 320 schools serving over 172 000 learners.  

South African Catholic education is part of the wider African and International school network. Only 21% of learners are Catholic making the key aim of Catholic schools to work for the Common Good of all children. South African Catholic schools range from well-resourced schools to small farm schools in far-flung areas. This makes the network very unequal but the key to all schools is understanding and keeping the Catholic ethos alive. The network is aided by the Vision and Mission of the 3rd National Catholic Schools Congress, Towards Tomorrow Together in Faith, and its five direction statements.  



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