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Literacy plummets

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Zimbabwe’s current literacy rate could be far less than the estimated 91,9% as no systematic study has been conducted to establish the actual rate in the past decade, a Zimbabwe Reads study has revealed.

Against that backdrop, Zimbabwe Reads argues that the current literacy rate, which is the percentage of literate people over 15 years, was a mere approximation based on literacy in English.

“The usual complications in determining various types of functional literacy are further complicated in Zimbabwe (as in much of Africa) where literacy is measured by ability in English, which is a second language for the majority of the population,” says the report, titled Is Zimbabwe Reading: The 2011 Reading Survey.

The report notes that the 91,9% estimate from the UNDP and Unicef was based on the last available data provided a decade ago by Unesco and the Zimbabwe government.

“But this optimistic calculation is certainly out of date, as is Unicef’s reported literacy rate of 98% for youth aged 15-24.

“Whereas once the major part of the illiterate population in Zimbabwe was among the elderly who had not had access to schooling in their youth, now the increasing number of early school-leavers creates a new and long-term group of illiterates or semi-literates,” says the report.

The report further says the actual literacy rate could actually be around 80% and if the current trend is maintained, the statistics would likely have further reduced to 70% by 2020.

“At this stage, it seems unlikely that Zimbabwe still has the highest literacy rate in Africa, with the more reliable estimates from Botswana (85%) and Tunisia (87%) probably surpassing it,” reads the report.

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