Giving Compass' Take:

• Ellen Chilemba describes the work of Marjorie Brown, a Global Teacher prize finalist for her efforts to increase literacy rates in South Africa. 

• How do social inequalities exacerbate early learning and literacy? What is the role of donors in improving literacy around the world?

• Read about the collaborative efforts of organizations in South Africa.

Every so often, you hear about an extraordinary individual who has devoted their life to the betterment of others, and through their actions embodies the values of global citizenship.

Marjorie Brown is one of these people.

Throughout her life, Marjorie has shown an extraordinary commitment to improving her society – driven by the goal of creating a more just and equal world for all those who live in it.

As a young woman in her 20s during apartheid, she became a member of the Black SASH, a resistance group formed by white women who used their social position and privilege within society to critique the power structures that marginalised and disenfranchised people of colour.

She has now been a teacher for 23 years, dedicating her career to helping her students understand the current social, economic, and political inequalities that plague their society by looking to the past — and showing them how their history continues to affect their present.

Some 78% of fourth graders do not comprehend their reading material and literacy scores are critically low in primary schools.

Many of these realities are a direct legacy of the apartheid-era policies that allocated children different access to educational resources based on their race. These inequalities persist to this day.

So, in order to combat these inequalities in her own students, Brown started the Phendulani Quiz to boost literacy and access to reading material in poorly-resourced schools.

The programme works through a partnership between a well-resourced school and an under-resourced school, to share resources and bridge the economic divides leftover from apartheid.

Brown’s efforts have not gone unrecognised and she is, justifiably, one of the 10 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize selected from over 30,000 nominations and applicants from 173 countries around the world.

Read the full article about literacy in South Africa by Ellen Chilemba at Global Citizen.