A three-year old South African toddler reads better than 80 percent of the country’s schoolchildren who are more than three times her age.
Lethukuthula Bhengu became famous after after her clips on social network TikTok reached over one million followers.
Bhengu’s parents started teaching her how to read after she turned two, seeing that she could memorise and associate words and objects, especially when they went grocery shopping.
“I think when you send your child to preschool, I think it’s a stigma around like they the teachers need to do everything and then that’s why kids when they come back home they don’t actually cement the knowledge that they learnt at school. So parents need to take charge of that”, said the father of Lethu and CEO of Mini Braniacs, Phakiso Masooa.
South Africa ranked last out of 57 nations polled in a research released by the US-based Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).
Experts agree that there is much work to be done to improve the current situation.
“We have a significant number of learners in grade one, two and three that are not learning to read effectively. It’s a problem of teachers pedagogy, it’s a problem of curriculum. So we have to address it systematically, we have to recognise that many of the practices that teachers are using aren’t working”, admits Brahm Fleisch, Professor of Education Policy in the Division of Education Leadership, Policy and Skills at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Public schools are poorly resourced, particularly in rural areas.
South Africa’s educational problems are also rooted in the apartheid regime, under which most black children were taught very little in segregated schools.