Fact Sheet

Adult Illiteracy in South Africa

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.


This Fact Sheet draws attention to the 4.4 million adults in South Africa who are still illiterate, and responds to the following important questions: What is the adult illiteracy rate in South Africa, and what are its patterns of distribution? Additionally, what are the implications of the findings on adult illiteracy for the PSET system?

It is imperative for the Department to understand the extent to which adults do not have the levels of education that could make them functionally literate, and to provide programmes that could deal with this challenge.

This publication covers

  • Detailed background: UNESCO and the White Paper on Post-School Education and Training (PSET)
  • Terms and definitions: literacy, functional literacy, and functional illiteracy
  • Facts and figures