Ending the Cycle of Illiteracy

7 July 2016

The ability to read is invaluable. It is the underlying skill that drives schools, businesses and governments throughout the world. If the importance of literacy is universally acknowledged, why is it that so little money is directed towards improving it? It’s no secret that South Africa has room for improvement in terms of reading skills; only 35% of children can read by the age of 12. And according to the Department of Economics at the University of Stellenbosch, “South Africa’s economy would be 23-30% larger if we had a fully literate population” (Harrison, 2015). However, acquiring universal literacy is not an easy task, especially if there aren’t concrete efforts during primary school years. These years are critical for brain development, making it much easier for a child to acquire a new skill. If these critical years are missed, it is much more difficult for a person to learn to read later in life.

There are a number of charitable organizations in South Africa that are working to combat the problem of illiteracy. However, it is imperative that these efforts start at the root of the problem, which is what Breadline Africa, a Cape Town-based non-profit organization who aims to provide poverty-relief through infrastructure seeks to do. One of the main issues that many schools face is the lack of funds to start a library, which is a fundamental part of learning to read. Because of our focus on Early Childhood Development, Breadline Africa is working to supply schools with stocked libraries, based out of shipping containers. Each school receives a starting stock of 800 donated books that cater to many different learner levels. These container donations are making a difference in schools throughout the country, allowing learners to have access to a variety of books at their reading level. Breadline Africa knows that in order for a child to reach his or her full potential, they must acquire the proper skills. Without learning to read, a child is immediately disadvantaged for the rest of his or her life. We refuse to let the cycle of illiteracy and missed potential continue. By starting at the root of the problem, our libraries have created an opportunity for more than 40,000 children to access print rich material across all 9 provinces. It is an effort that is slowly but surely changing our schools.

So how can you get involved? BLA’s efforts works with fundraising in the UK and South Africa to acquire book donations and funding for our containers. Luckily, it is easy to make an online donation or become a regular giver. Like any charity, financial stability is a large player in how many children can be reached. Without our children, our country will not thrive socially or economically. Although the challenge ahead of us is large, Breadline Africa is determined to make a difference in the lives of children across South Africa.


Written by: Christine Oswald


Harrison, David. “Why Big Business Must Get Behind Reading.” Business Day Live. Web. 25 Nov. 2015

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