The alarming revelation of declining literacy rates in South Africa as per the recent PIRLS study paints a distressing picture of the country’s educational landscape.

The study reports that a staggering 81% of grade 4 learners cannot comprehend what they read, irrespective of the language. This suggests that 8 out of 10 children struggle to understand written text in any of South Africa’s 11 official languages – a disturbing trend that’s significantly deteriorated from a decade ago, casting serious doubts over the future of our children’s education. This crisis spotlights the deficiencies in our education system.

“This crisis spotlights the deficiencies in our education system.”

Are we meeting our educational obligations when some schools lack even the most basic resource, such as books? An immediate, comprehensive intervention is essential to address this severe literacy deficiency among our learners.

In hindsight, the COVID-19 pandemic further compounded the crisis by dramatically affecting children’s reading comprehension. School closures and the abrupt shift to online learning disrupted the consistent, guided instruction that they require as an essential factor for developing strong reading skills.

The Government’s undelivered promises

 However, the pandemic’s educational disruption has been worsened by unfulfilled government promises. Plans that were meant to enhance internet access and equip learners with necessary digital devices for remote learning fell short. The inadequacies in implementing these initiatives have left many learners without the tools needed to sustain their education during the pandemic.

Moreover, multilingual literacy presents a unique challenge in South Africa, given our 11 official languages. While English is a significant language in our educational system, many children speak different languages at home. This necessitates nurturing literacy in their first languages, a crucial aspect of inclusive education.

An additional concern looms over our education landscape with the upcoming retirement of approximately half our teachers, most of whom are over 50. This impending mass exodus will leave a considerable experience gap and potentially impact the quality of teaching and learning. The situation further strains the education system to rapidly recruit and train new teachers.

From our standpoint at Qualibooks, having been part of the educational sector for 30 years, we have experienced this literacy problem firsthand. Our recent discussions with various Non-Profit Organizations have brought the severity of this issue, especially among children reading in multiple languages, into sharper focus. We have partnered with progressive schools, striving to ignite a desire to read among children, but the scale of the challenge is vast.

“Without substantial government intervention, our impact remains limited. This calls for a collaborative effort.”

Let’s take matters into our own hands!

Without substantial government intervention, our impact remains limited. This calls for a collaborative effort. We urge corporate entities to invest in the country’s future by joining us in this battle against the literacy crisis. We must avert this looming disaster with timely, decisive action.

At Qualibooks, we are equipped with the distribution facilities – both digital and physical libraries – necessary for the fight. However, we need collective action to truly turn this situation around and shape the future we envision for our children.

Our app is a step towards this goal. This mobile app, accessible at any time and from anywhere, allows children to access an array of reading materials. Beyond relying on teachers alone, it empowers children to take charge of their learning journey and develop a consistent reading habit. By offering live tracking, 24/7 uninterrupted access, and quality exciting content which encourages reading activity, we believe is the perfect tool to nurture this crucial habit.

In closing, there’s no debating that South Africa’s current literacy crisis calls for a proactive, head-on approach.

Together, we can shape a brighter future for the children of our nation.

To join us in this mission, contact Qualibooks on 0861113337 or email us on

Christopher de Beer
Qualibooks Director