In the 2011 United Nations Development Programme Report, South Africa was ranked 113th in its list of countries by literacy rate, lagging far behind more developed nations and even trailing several other less developed African countries.
The Growsmart Literacy Competition was initiated in 2010 with support from the Western Cape Education Department.
The competition, which saw 80 Western Cape primary schools competing in its first year, has quickly grown and this year a total of 168 schools will be taking part.
It is aimed at primary school learners in Grades 4, 5 and 6, and involves one team of three learners and one mentor representing their school to stand a chance of winning prizes for their school valued at more than R200 000. The prizes come in much-needed improvements to the winning school, while the winning learners receive financial assistance toward their future education.
Based on the American spelling bee concept, the competition requires participating teams to be able to not only accurately spell a word, but also provide its definition and use it in a sentence whilst working together as a team.
Speaking at the launch, Growthpoint’s Head of CSI, Shawn Theunissen, said: “Literacy is at the core of the educational system in our country. It is important for us as a company to look at the challenges with literacy in our country and decide on what the impact is of what we want to achieve. At the end of it all, we want to know that we’ve actually added to an increase in literacy, and that we made a difference.”
As part of the competition, all learners in Grades 4 to 6 in participating schools receive specially designed Growsmart newspapers based on the curriculum, to help them prepare for the competition and to encourage reading, spelling and comprehension. The newspapers are also used by educators as a useful teaching tool during daily reading sessions. Schools continue to receive the newspaper even if they are knocked out of the competition.
The Western Cape Education Department also recently launched its new slogan of ‘Better Together’. “This slogan is so important and sums up what this competition is all about – we have learners, schools, government officials, private companies, parents and communities all involved – all determined to make our learners’ literacy levels better together,” said Minister Grant. “If we all continue to carry along this path, promoting reading and writing, and encouraging others to do so as well, I have no doubt that we can achieve our goals here in the Western Cape.”
The participating schools will host their internal round during March and April before the first round takes place from 21 April to 9 June. The second round of the competition will run from 4-18 August, with the final taking place on the United Nations’ International Literacy Day on 8 September.
Minister of Education in the Western Cape, Donald Grant, on 16 February 2012, launched the third annual Growsmart Literacy Competition at the Spine Road High School in Mitchell’s Plain to the more than 400 educators and school representatives present.
He said the necessity of promoting reading and writing was made clear two weeks ago, when his department released the literacy and numeracy results for Grades 3, 6 and 9. In the Grade 3 tests, learners achieved a 30.4% pass rate at a 50% benchmark, while Grade 6 learners achieved 31.5% in languages. “Given that these tests are in line with international standards, it is clear that there is a great deal of work ahead to ensure our learners progress to a point where they can compete in a very competitive global market.”