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Furthering Literacy in South Africa

Wednesday 2 August 2017

Save the Children South Africa’s CEO, Ms Gugulethu “Gugu” Ndebele, has been honoured by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga (MP), for her efforts in furthering literacy in South Africa.

On Friday 14 July 2017, Minister Motshekga announced the Read to Lead Reading Ambassadors Programme. In this inaugural address, the Minister named Gugu Ndebele as one of the ambassadors who will continue to champion access to quality literacy programmes for children. 

“It is an honour and privilege to be named as an ambassador. This role affords me the opportunity to positively influence the lives of children and in doing so, it complements the work we are doing here at Save the Children South Africa, as literacy, particularly foundation phase literacy, is a key focus area. The role of literacy ambassador and the work I do within Save the Children dovetails perfectly to ensure Every Last Child thrives” said Gugu. 

Over the years, Gugu has played a pivotal role in promoting literacy and empowering children with the skills to read and write. She was responsible for setting up the South African Literacy Initiative within the Department of Basic Education, a prelude to the Kha ri Gude Mass Literacy campaign.

Since joining Save the Children South Africa in April 2014, she has encouraged the implementation of the organisations highly successful Literacy Boost programme in the Free State. In addition, literacy has become a tool in addressing the objectives of other disciplines such as reducing violence against children within the Child Protection thematic area. Using books as an instrument to strengthen the bond between mother and child, Save the Children believes that its unique Book-Sharing programme can be use in the prevention of violence against children. This cost-effective model also instils the love for reading and sets the foundation for literacy in toddlers in under-resourced communities. 

In 2016, Gugu was appointed Vice- Chair of the Executive Management Bureau of the Global Alliance for Literacy (GAL) within UNESCO.

“The power of literacy lies not just in the ability to read and write, but rather in a person’s ability to use these skills to connect with others and with the world in which they live”.

Gugu is regarded as one of the most passionate children’s rights activists in South Africa. Her work and vision within the Department of Basic Education (2007 – 2014) shifted the silo thinking that limited cross-departmental collaboration.

Driven by a need to unite various sectors in society to not divvy up services to children but to rather see children as holistic beings with a multitude of needs, Gugu was drawn into the development sector where she continues to make a lasting impact.

 “To reach Every Last Child, it is important for us to work in partnership with key institutions such as government to not only further our mission but to increase our reach to those children who are not within our directly line of sight,” added Ndebele.