oa Journal of Education - South African illiteracy statistics and the case of the magically growing number of literacy and ABET learners

Volume 39, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0259-479X



This article examines the state of South African illiteracy and adult basic education statistics. Firstly, it reexamines the mid to late 1990s consensus on South Africa�s illiteracy statistics (based largely on Household surveys and the 1996 Census data) which formed the baseline starting point for various government adult education provision and campaign goals (such as Education for All and the South African National Literacy Initiative), and finds that the actual number of illiterates has not been significantly reduced (if indeed they have been reduced) by such interventions. Secondly it provides a critique of the Ministry and Department of Education�s claims and their supporting statistics on how various state interventions have allegedly rendered illiterates literate and provided adult basic education to millions of people. The authors present evidence to show that a series of these government claims are based upon unreliable, confused, self-contradictory, inflated and sometimes non-existent data and that these misleading claims about provision have indeed become endemic.

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