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Hungry children battle to read

Prof Lazarus Hangula, Vice-chancellor of UNAM with study authors Prof Jeanne Tötemeyer (left), Emma Kirchner and Susan Alexander.

Prof Lazarus Hangula, Vice-chancellor of UNAM with study authors Prof Jeanne Tötemeyer (left), Emma Kirchner and Susan Alexander.

A study by Emma Kirchner, Andree-Jeanne Tötemeyer and Susan Alexander aimed to establish if  Namibian grade 6 learners are proficient readers, what they read, and if they do not read, why, as well as the factors that might underlie this behaviour. This study was largely funded by the University of Namibia.
The study was conducted in 36 schools with 1402 students in seven regions. Schools were selected that teach Oshiwambo, Khoekhoegowab, Afrikaans, Rukwangali, Otjiherero and Silozi, as school subjects.

The study underlined the poor state of information provision at schools, due to the lack of libraries and reading material. It also showed that the majority of students come from uneducated families, living in basic information-poor conditions. These children, typically do not receive assistance with homework and are hungry most of the time, having to walk long distances to school. Their teachers are not always qualified in the subjects they teach. In the final analysis, only 22.4% of students could be classified as readers, 18.8% are mainly story readers, while a mere 3.6% prefer non-fiction. The study concludes with extensive recommendations to reduce the percentage of students who do not read.  Prof Tötemeyer is a research fellow at UNISA and chairperson of the Namibian Children’s Book Forum (NCBF). Emma Kirchner and Susan Alexander are both lecturers at UNAM and executive members of the NCBF.

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