Monday 15 April

Social justice organisations launch The Right to Read Campaign to address early-grade literacy

Published by Section27 on

30 August 2023, Johannesburg – Today marks the launch of the Right to Read Campaign (R2R) at Constitution Hill, Johannesburg in response to the shocking early-grade literacy rates in South Africa. In May, the results of the 2021 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) revealed that 81% of Grade 4 learners cannot read for meaning in any language, including their home language.

The R2R campaign is made up of a coalition of human rights organisations which are, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), Equal Education (EE) and SECTION27. The campaign aims to mobilise civil society and the education sector, as well as society at large, to make early-grade literacy a national priority reflected through legislative reform.

“The PIRLS results are a wake-up call for our country,” said LRC attorney, Cameron McConnachie. “We cannot continue to let our learners down in this manner. We need to take urgent action to address the reading crisis, and binding regulations are an essential part of that.”

The R2R Campaign proposes binding regulations to clarify the country’s minimum obligations to ameliorate the reading crisis and realise the right to basic education for our learners. Our main focus areas for developing binding regulations are the 4Ts, which aim to provide all learners with equitable access to core elements for effective reading instruction.

These regulations would include requirements for:

  • The TIME that must be spent teaching literacy.
  • The specialised TRAINING that all foundation phase teachers must undergo.
  • The minimum amount and quality of TEXTS and learner and teacher support material that must be provided to teachers and learners.
  • Regular TESTING of learners’ literacy abilities to gauge their ability to read for meaning.

“Recognising the right to read, defining it, and creating a framework for assessing reading comprehension are important first steps from which focused, strategic advocacy and litigation may follow. This will require effort from all of us,” said former Constitutional Court Justice, Edwin Cameron.

The R2R campaign calls on the government to take the following steps:

  • Introduce binding regulations to clarify the country’s minimum obligations to ameliorate the reading crisis.
  • Provide adequate funding to ensure that all foundation phase teachers have access to the training and resources they need to teach literacy effectively.
  • Implement a national reading strategy that is based on the 4Ts.
  • Regularly monitor and evaluate the implementation of the national reading strategy to ensure that it is effective.

The campaign also calls on civil society and the education sector to join the campaign and help to make early-grade literacy a national priority.

“This is not a crisis we can solve on our own,” said Thabisa Booi, a foundation phase teacher from Makhanda. “We need everyone to get involved in this campaign. We need the government, civil society, and the education sector to work together to ensure that all learners in South Africa have the opportunity to learn to read for meaning in any language.”

Launch details:

Date: 30 August

Time: 10h00 – 14h00

Venue: Women’s Jail, Constitutional Hill, Johannesburg

Link to the programme here

For more information about the R2R Campaign, please visit


For media enquiries contact: 


Kenneth Sithebe

079 581 8565


Thabo Ramphobole

068 584 2442


Noncedo Madubedube

079 170 4656


Gillian Pillay

082 772 0052


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