World Literacy Day, observed on 08 September annually, aims to raise awareness globally on the issues surrounding literacy. Across the world an astounding 774 million adults (15 years and older) still cannot read or write, according to the United Nations. Looking at the situation in South Africa; it is well regarded that the country is facing a literacy crisis, with much of the crisis happening at school level. Statistics released by the University of Pretoria show that eight out of 10 Grade 4 pupils still cannot read at an appropriate level.

“In order to make a tangible difference, children need to be provided with access to books,” says Carrie Nixon, Corporate Communications Manager for leading commercial printing and manufacturing company, Novus Holdings. “Lack of access to age appropriate reading material will impact literacy levels and severely impact a learner’s ability to not only succeed at school but to also become engaged citizens. Giving a child access to books is the first step in changing the narrative and it is key that Government and corporates work together to make this possible.”

Earlier this year Government launched the National Reading Coalition (NRC), which focuses on reading for pleasure and aims to ensure that every Grade 4 learner read with the appropriate level of comprehension. At the launch of the NRC, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said that the lack of literacy skills stems from the fact that little attention is paid to creating a literate environment.

Nixon says that Novus Holdings supports the NRC as the initiative is a step in the right direction to addressing the literacy crisis facing the country.

“As a corporate, we promote reading for pleasure and access to books through the installation of container libraries where schools have the space and a need for this type of structure; the donation of mobile libraries; as well as the stocking and re-stocking of existing libraries, which includes assistance with book monitoring systems,” says Nixon.

Earlier this year Novus Holdings donated a container library to Prince George Primary school in Lavender Hill, Cape Town, to help create a safe learning space for children. The company also has, in partnership with New Africa Education Foundation (NAEF), donated more than 39 mobile libraries to schools in South Africa to date, worth over R1 million. These mobile libraries can be wheeled from one classroom to another. In the most recent example of how it is helping to create a more literate environment, Novus Holdings donated more than 250 books to Montarena Secondary, in Chatsworth, KwaZulu-Natal in July 2019. The donation was in response to a plea by the school for help with resources and other necessities.

An example of an initiative supported by Novus Holdings that aims to enhance education is its printing of the Growsmart newspaper and storybook. This is an educational programme that supports the Western Cape Education Department and the Eastern Cape Department of Education to improve literacy, mathematics, science, writing and debating levels in primary schools. The newspapers are given to 150 schools who enter a literacy competition and compete for prizes, in the hope of instilling a love for reading in young learners.

“By driving our literacy and education initiatives, we support Government’s mandate to improve literacy levels in the country, and hope to further encourage more collaboration between the public and the private sector in this regard in the future,” concludes Nixon.