In South Africa, it’s never too old to learn

Sunday, October 10, 2010

JOHANNESBURG - As children, they never had the chance to get an education. But for many elderly people in South Africa, the opportunity has finally come even if they have now become grandparents.

As part of the education department’s “Kha ri Gude” (”let us learn” in South Africa’s Tshivenda dialect) literacy campaign, 16 elderly people who never went to school are learning to read and do basic mathematics in the afternoons at a primary school in Acornhoek town in the Limpopo region, BuaNews, the national news agency, reported.

Student Lizzy Mathebula, 59, from Timbavati village, says poverty prevented her from getting an education.

“As a child, I knew there was a school where people went to learn to read and write, but I never got the chance to do the same. When I heard about this project that helps people like me, I registered,” she said.

Mathebula has only been to the Mugidi primary school for three months, but already her reading has improved.

“I can read my Shangaan Bible without hiccups and I know soon I will be able to read the English version too,” she said.

Dickson Mnisi, 67, the only man in the class and the school’s security guard, said he loves attending these adult literacy classes.

“When I’m on night shift, I always make sure I catch up with what they learned. I would recommend this to all people who cannot read or count because once you can, you don’t have to rely on strangers to help you withdraw your money at banks.”

Mnisi is also excited because he can now write his full name.

While the students kept singing praises of their teacher, she is also delighted about her role in bringing changes in their lives.

“I heard about Kha ri Gude looking for young people with postgraduate qualification to volunteer as teachers for illiterate elderly people, and I grabbed the opportunity,” said Nkateko Fortunate.

“They are easy to teach because they are so willing to learn. There is nothing better than seeing my students become independent with regard to their reading and writing.”

Kha ri Gude is recognised by the South African Qualification Authority.

The campaign was launched in February 2008 with the intention of enabling 4.7 million adults to become literate. Achieving this goal will enable South Africa to reach its “Education For All” commitment made in 2000 - that of halving the country’s illiteracy rates by 2015.

Filed under: Education

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