Ulwazi Lwethu African Language Reading Resources: Cultivating a New Era for Literacy
Zenex Foundation supports the Department of Basic Education in addressing literacy challenges in the Early Grades.
South Africa, Johannesburg, [21 September, 2023] – The Zenex Foundation is proud to unveil a groundbreaking response to South Africa’s reading crisis – the Ulwazi Lwethu African Language Reading Materials. These resources, which includes African language readers and storybooks, were meticulously developed with the aim of enhancing mother-tongue reading skills and stand poised to transform the landscape of education and literacy in the country.
The dire state of literacy and reading proficiency among South African learners has long been recognised as a national challenge by the Department of Basic Education. The 2021 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) report starkly revealed that an alarming 8 out of 10 Grade 4 learners struggle to read for comprehension, underlining a crisis that demands immediate action.
It is well documented that a significant factor contributing to this predicament is the lack of accessible and engaging reading materials, particularly in African languages. The paucity of age-appropriate and culturally relevant books hinders learners’ literacy progress and enjoyment of reading. Furthermore, many existing materials fail to resonate with the diverse realities and experiences of South African children, further widening the gap in literacy.
It is against this backdrop that the Ulwazi Lwethu African Language Reading Materials were conceptualised and brought to fruition. The Zenex Foundation recognised the pivotal role that language competence, especially in learners’ home languages, plays in academic achievement.. With this in mind, the Ulwazi Lwethu materials target the nine official indigenous languages of South Africa, nurturing foundational reading and comprehension skills while celebrating the rich cultural tapestry of the nation.
“A strong foundation in mother-tongue literacy during the Foundation Phase is a cornerstone of successful future learning and development. However, the availability of suitable reading materials in African languages for the teaching of reading in classrooms has been a persistent obstacle. To address this gap, the Ulwazi Lwethu project focuses on producing a comprehensive range of high-quality graded readers and support materials” states Gail Campbell, CEO at the Zenex Foundation
The scarcity of African language story books and a lacklustre reading culture have collectively hampered literacy development in South Africa. As a result, the Ulwazi Lwethu African reading materials have emerged as a beacon of hope, aiming to supply the Department of Basic Education, schools, teachers, parents, caregivers, and educational organizations with a rich repository of literature. This platform is set to invigorate learning spaces and homes with resources that empower learners to read with proficiency and delight.
“A key innovative facet of the Ulwazi Lwethu reading materials is their digital dimension. The platform offers an online library of open educational resources, ensuring broader access and distribution of the materials, enabling educators, families, and learners to engage with the resources seamlessly in both physical and digital formats for download and printing” continues Campbell.
Along with providing Grade 1 to 3 learners with access to 1 430 high-quality African language Graded readers and storybooks, authored and illustrated by African creators, teachers will be equipped with the tools to effectively mediate the resources, and learners and caregivers can embrace leisure readers for continued practice at home. Learner worksheets, Big Books, Anthologies and classroom libraries all form part of the resource package available to support teachers to catalyse the adoption and optimal utilisation of the developed material.
The launch of the Ulwazi Lwethu African Language Reading Materials marks a turning point in South Africa’s pursuit of literacy excellence. By nurturing mother-tongue literacy and offering a wealth of culturally relevant reading materials, this project paves the way for learners to discover the joy of reading while cultivating a strong foundation for lifelong learning.
Educators, parents, caregivers and learners can access ,download and print the reading materials at www.ulwazilwethu.org.za
This initiative is the biggest contribution to the education reading space in South Africa offering language equity in all 9 African languages to drive positive educational outcomes, cultivation a new area for literacy in South Africa.