The MTN SA Foundation has partnered with Bellavista S.H.A.R.E., a division of Bellavista School, and USA-based non-profit Curious Learning, to pilot an award-winning child literacy app which significantly enhances reading fluency and comprehension.

This is a response to calls growing louder for government, corporates and all citizens to step up to help solve a growing literacy crisis.

The pilot of the ground-breaking app, called ‘Feed the Monster’, helps make learning the fundamentals of reading more meaningful and fun while reaching out to a wide community.

In recognition of the importance of using the mother tongue to foster literacy at foundation level, MTN has played a key role in facilitating the localisation of the solution into all 11 official languages in South Africa.

The app addresses all aspects of reading and bridges the gap between literacy skills and fluent reading.

Because the ability to comprehend and understand the meaning of words is crucial to successful knowledge and skills transfer, the launch of the app ties in with MTN’s ongoing commitment to help improve literacy, education and skills so that the immense opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be provided to more children across the country.

Through the engaging and exciting Feed the Monster app, readers between the ages of six and eight will be able to access reading instruction via a specialised curriculum. By matching letters with sounds, the app gives children the ability to learn that sounds combined together make words, and words together make sentences that carry meaning.

“Urgent action is needed as a lack of access to reading material and textbooks are two of the main reasons that 78% of South African children in grade 3 still can’t read for meaning. This is not helped by the fact that only 29% of the poorest primary schools in the country reportedly have access to in-school libraries,” says Kusile Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, General Manager: MTN SA Foundation.

The power of mobile software for learning is a potential game-changer for developing countries.

Alison Scott, Principal of Bellavista School, says case studies and reports from other parts of the world highlight the immense strides which can be made by harnessing mobile and app-based solutions.

“In Syria, where an estimated 2.3 million children are out of school because of violent conflict, the Feed the Monster app resulted in positive learning outcomes in all age groups. The rate of change for younger children was an impressive 34% on the syllable sub-task versus a 27% change rate for older children. The improvement in oral reading fluency was even more remarkable, with a 75% increase from baseline for younger children, while older children achieved an 18% increase.”

Feed the Monster will scale up its literacy impact in South Africa by localising and distributing two learning apps: the first focuses on fundamental reading skills; the second on providing a collection of interactive e-books that act as “training wheels” for young readers.  Together, these apps provide a springboard for many children to begin their journey of learning to read.

Earlier this year, the MTN SA Foundation together with Samsung Electronics and the Department of Social Development, handed over a multimedia centre to Thlokomelo Special School in Soweto. Feed the Monster will complement the specialised equipment that was donated.  In particular, the app will support students with learning difficulties (SLD) and will provide them with much-needed access to e-learning.

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