Fact Sheet

Adult Illiteracy in South Africa – 2024

The purpose of this Fact Sheet is to show the extent to which there is potential demand for programmes that address the challenge of adult illiteracy in South Africa.


Adult illiteracy continues to pose an obstacle to social, economic and political advancement in South Africa.

This Fact Sheet reveals a significant and consistent reduction in the adult illiteracy rate in South Africa over the past decade. This finding is indeed celebratory. However, it is concerning that almost 4 million adults, particularly in the North West, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal were still illiterate in 2022. It is therefore evident that CET colleges need to continue providing ABET programmes to further reduce illiteracy in South Africa, especially in the provinces with the highest number of illiterate adults.

This Fact Sheet responds to the following questions:

  • What is the adult illiteracy rate in South Africa, and what are its patterns of distribution?
  • What are the implications of the findings on adult illiteracy for the PSET system?