Illiteracy rates in South Africa are high and stand at about 24 percent of the population over 15 years of age: 4.7 million adults never went to school, and further 4.9 million are functionally illiterate. Provinces with the largest number of illiterate people are KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape, followed by Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West. The lowest numbers occur in the Free State, the Northern Cape and the Western Cape. The language groups most affected are isiZulu, isiXhosa and Sesotho sa Leboa.
Concentrated efforts are made by government, business sector and non-governmental organisations to address this situation by expanding the network of adult education and ensuring the responsiveness of the programme for the diverse needs of adult learners.
The Kha Ri Gude (“let us learn”) mass literacy campaign was officially launched in February 2008. Government will spend R6,1 billion over five years to enable 4,7 million South Africans to achieve literacy by 2010 with the help of 40,000 educators. By August 2008, there were already 360,000 learners enrolled.
The Bridges to the Future Initiative is being developed as a pilot programme in Limpopo. Partners include the national Department of Education, Limpopo Department of Education, the International Literacy Institute, Nedbank, Kellogg Foundation (USA) and the Molteno Project.