An Illiterate South Africa

Photo: The Constitution of the RSA. The Bill of Rights guarantees every citizen the right to a basic education
Photo: The Constitution of the RSA. The Bill of Rights guarantees every citizen the right to a basic education

What has happened to the quality of education?

It is a well-known fact that education creates jobs, growth, and wealth – and that unemployment goes hand in hand with a rise in crime and civil unrest.

South Africa, now in its 24th year of freedom from the yoke of the oppressive Apartheid regime, has seen some unremarkable and unwelcome changes. There has been an infestation of corruption in high places; an explosion of crime in low places; and an endless stream of woes raining down in the middle of its people.

The country, under the leadership of Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma and his incompetent, corrupt, communist cadres, has brought this country to its knees.

Global credit ratings agencies have downgraded South Africa to junk status. Investors are reluctant to invest in the country where the ANC-led government has promised to amend the Constitution to allow for land to be expropriated without compensation.

There is not one government department which is functioning properly. According to the Auditor General, 92% of municipalities are in financial trouble.

The lack of planning, budgeting, managing, and administration, is clearly manifested in the collapse of the country’s infrastructure. Health, education, transport, crime prevention, water and electricity supply, housing, employment – an endless list of the failures of the ANC government.

The country, as a whole, is teetering on the brink of an abyss of total collapse due to corruption, crime, lack of investors’ confidence, and the government’s utter inability to govern.

But, here’s the thing:

Almost everyone agrees that education is the key to getting the country kick-started on its way to “a better life for all.” But this is just not happening.

Every year, the matric pass rate percentages are reported to be an improvement on those of the previous year.

This year, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, has applauded the class of 2017 for achieving a 75.1% pass rate. The pass rate is a 2.6% improvement from the previous year,


The number of schools which achieved a 0% matric pass rate for 2017, has decreased to nine, from eighteen, in 2016.

Fantastic! From the above, it would seem as if things are moving in the right direction at last.


The education system is in crisis – according to research released by the University of Pretoria – eight out of ten Grade 4 pupils “still cannot read at an appropriate level”.

South Africa was placed last out of 50 countries in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) which included nearly 320‚000 children globally.

The ability to read in Grade 4 is regarded as crucial‚ because from Grades 1 to 3 you learn to read – but from grades 4 to 12 you read to learn.

In England‚ only 3% of Grade 4 pupils are illiterate – and the rate in Chile, a low-income country, is 13%.

But – and this is amazing – here in the RSA, the more illiterate the children become, the higher their matric pass rates!

So… One of these days, when all the South Africa kids are completely illiterate, will we be seeing a 100% matric pass mark?

You tell me…

  • Fubar Bundy is a renowned writer, of Indian origin, who travels the world and comments on the state of the various nations in general; and the level of development of selected countries in particular.