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Minister Motshekga Addresses COVID-19’s Impact on Learning



Minister Angie Motshekga of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has emphasised the significant learning losses experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly regarding reading literacy levels among learners in South Africa.

During a media briefing on Sunday, the Minister discussed the recent release of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) results, which revealed that South African learners ranked last among 50 countries regarding reading abilities as reported by SA News.

The Minister acknowledged the ongoing public debate surrounding reading in schools, which intensified with the publication of the PIRLS findings. The report confirmed that, like most countries, South Africa experienced a decline in primary reading competencies due to pandemic-related disruptions in schools.

Motshekga stated that the extent of the decline caused by the pandemic was not surprising, as South Africa had been actively monitoring the impact on learning outcomes. The PIRLS results aligned with earlier findings reported by the department.

While recognising the department’s role in learner development, Motshekga highlighted the importance of fostering a reading culture at home. She emphasised that learning does not begin at Grade R (the first year of formal schooling) but starts from an early age. The department can take certain measures, but parents also have a crucial role to play.


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The Minister emphasised the need for all community members to identify their responsibilities in preparing children for school and supporting their learning journey. In addition to schools providing educational materials, the entire ecosystem should be involved. Motshekga acknowledged that schools play a vital role, especially for families relying heavily on them.

Referring to the release of the reading barometer, the Minister mentioned the importance of providing children with books rather than temporary pleasures such as sweets or toys. Books have a lasting impact and can enrich a child’s life. She urged young parents to consider gifting books to their children on special occasions like birthdays rather than solely focusing on toys.

In conclusion, Minister Motshekga emphasised the collective effort required to address the challenges faced in reading and learning. The department will continue its efforts to support early learning skills and teach children how to read. Still, it is crucial for families, schools, and the wider community to actively participate in promoting a culture of reading and providing the necessary resources for children’s educational development.

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Photo: Facebook / @Angie Motshekga

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