‘Basic Education missing mark with celebrity reading project’

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Some qualified South African teachers have taken to social media to express disappointment at the Department of Basic Education’s decision to use celebrities in a book reading project.

This after it partnered with a non-profit organisation to get prominent South Africans to read to learners, amid the lockdown effected to combat the spread of COVID-19.

‘Missed opportunity’

SABC News spoke to a number of qualified teachers who believe government has missed an opportunity to prioritise the unemployed.

Levels of unemployment in the country are expected to rise following the closure of multiple businesses as part of efforts to contain the pandemic spread. An estimated 370 000 jobs could be lost this year alone, according to the South Africa Reserve Bank.

With the current unemployment rate at a record-high unemployment rate of 29.1%, the country has a significant number of unemployed educators.




Respect the teaching profession

Basic Education spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga, told SABC News that no one needs a qualification to read, adding that the department has also engaged dozens of qualified teachers to conduct classes on digital platforms during lockdown.

However, some teachers are not convinced and have pointed out the “incompetence” of some of the appointed personalities.



Science and Mathematics teacher, Khutjo Manyashi, feels that the initiative undermines the teaching field.

“Please respect my profession. I am a qualified experienced physical science and mathematics teacher Grade 8-12. I hold BSc Chemistry and PGCE ,” says Manyashi.

Another teacher, Rethabile Rout says some of these celebrities do not even have sound knowledge in some of the subjects they are participating in.

“I watched some of the presentations and as a teacher, I picked up mistakes. Those mistakes will be instilled in our children and they (our children) will think that it’s okay to use incorrect meanings for particular words,” adds Rout.

“Before working with children in our education system, you need to have sound knowledge on how to implement strategies in the CAPS document. Even if you are just reading for children; understand what the curriculum is expecting from you as a facilitator. The mere fact that you are reading to a mass audience (children) means you are a facilitator. If you are going to facilitate, work on the strategies the DBE has set for you as a facilitator,” she explains.

Another qualified English and History teacher, NkosiNgiphile Ntuli, says the government should have prioritized the unemployed graduates.

Click below to listen to Ntuli.

Basic Education, has however defended its position.

In the video below, Elijah Mhlanga respond to concerns raised over digital lessons provided by celebrities:

“No intention to undermine the teaching profession”

Radio and TV personality Penny Lebyane, has defended her participation in the initiative and has challenged those who has criticized her to come up with a new reading program.

Social media influencer, Tumi Sole, has rubbished claims that they were getting paid to provide digital reading learners during the lockdown period.