The problem

South Africa’s youth literacy rates are among the worst in the world. Many children face multiple deprivations from birth, which directly impact their
ability to learn. These include poor nutrition, disease, violence, abuse, neglect, and impoverished living conditions.

Learners from impoverished communities frequently experience “learning
gaps” that becomes entrenched during the first three years of primary school. Ideally, these learners should receive support to catch up with their peers; however, this rarely happens in schools that are already overcrowded.

The result is that children continue to be pushed through the grades without mastering basic skills. As they continue, schooling becomes more difficult leading to school dropout and the high levels of illiteracy that we see.

The solution

The ABC For Life approach to literacy support is to help “bridge” the skills gaps of Foundation Phase learners (grade R-3) who are 1-2 years behind their required grade-level. This approach ensures that “learning deficits” are
caught early before they accumulate further.

Over the past 16 years of carefully monitoring learners, our research-based evidence shows that our “catch-up” and “teaching at the right level” approach is extremely effective
and enables learners to be reintegrated into the school system, giving them a chance to succeed and experience academic success versus failure.

Bridging support is offered through our 3 core programs namely, (1) Whole Class Teaching (2) Small Group Classes and (3) Individual Lessons.

Our method

We have developed our own teaching materials that have been used successfully nearly fifteen years. These materials can be aligned to any curriculum or examination system. We nurture a learner’s emotional wellbeing, create a safe space by affirming their value, and treat them with empathy and respect.  We never have more than ten learners per session which allows each child to receive a much more personal learning experience.

We have a “before and after” test, and our learners are evaluated after every five hours of teaching to ensure that the skills covered have been mastered.

This process ensures that students experience success in the program at regular intervals, and remain motivated and confident. Our teachers receive intensive training and are monitored on an ongoing basis.


ABC has developed its own literacy support materials which have been revised and updated over the past 16 years to align with the changing South African education curriculum. We engage in regular assessments to ensure that learners have grasped new concepts and to track their progress.

Whole Class Teaching:

ABC delivers whole class literacy lessons at schools where English is taught as a first additional language. The emphasis is on taking learners through a series of core literacy building blocks using our specialised materials and booklets. Lessons are interactive and encourage learner participation in a fun and safe space.

Small Group Classes:

These classes target weak learners that have been identified by their class teachers as having significant “literacy gaps”. Classes are limited to no more than 10 learners per class who receive an additional two to three 45-minute literacy support lessons each week. Learner progress is continuously monitored through regular assessments.

Individual Lessons:

ABC facilitates one-on-one individual lessons with learners who cannot keep up even in a small class setting. Lessons take place 2-3 times weekly for up to 45-minutes. After careful assessment, an individual education plan is developed to address the unique challenges of each child.


Our After School program is run by volunteers. We give homework support and also use educational games and toys to help the students learn through fun. Whilst doing this, we are also keeping the children safe and off the streets.


Our students who achieve less than 20% in their grade level are given daily one-on-one support in reading and writing.


ABC for Life is spreading its wings and reaching out to more learners in the Western Cape by rolling out its program material and training educators from different schools.