Breakthrough to Literacy

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Breakthrough to Literacy

South Africa
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

About You
Project Street Address

54 De Korte Street

Project City

Braamfontein, Johannesburg

Project Province/State


Project Postal/Zip Code


Project Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on:

South Africa mainly but also has made impact in the following countries; Angola, Botswana, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, Uganda and Zambia.

Website URL
What stage is your project in?

YouTube Upload
What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?


Describe your idea in fewer than 50 words.

Breakthrough to Literacy is an extremely effective literacy methodology that responds to curriculum and educational contexts, ensuring that it achieves results both with the children, who become literate within the first year of schooling and with their teachers, who develop skill in early literacy pedagogy and classroom management.

What makes your idea unique?

The fact that Breakthrough works in the children’s mothertongue and combines the key elements of early literacy pedagogy into one programme that is relevant to the life and language experiences of African children is the key factor. Another essential element of its uniqueness and success is that the teacher training gives the tools to successfully empower children with literacy, even in the most crowded and most poorly resourced classroom.

What is your area of work? (Please check as many as apply.)

Children & Youth , Early childhood development , Education , Architecture , Fundraising , Poverty alleviation , Rural , Urban , Arts and culture .

What impact have you had?

Breakthrough to Literacy is an initial literacy programme that enables Grade One children to be able to express themselves orally with confidence and to read and write in the first year of schooling. The methodology uses a balanced approach in the medium of children’s mothertongue. It incorporates elements of Language Experience Approach, Look and Say strategies, phonics and access to early books. To date Breakthrough, which is a mothertongue programme has been translated into more than 50 African languages.
Breakthrough is not a new idea – it has been achieving success in early literacy classroom.

Breakthrough is not a new idea – it has been achieving success in early literacy classrooms in Africa since 1975. However, its claim to innovation and uniqueness has been its responsiveness and adaptability to context. In each different country that the methodology has been used, a central principle has been to work with the Ministries of Education so that they can adapt it to suit their own curricula, cultural and socio-economic context.

Hence the methodology has been as successful with the marginalized San people of the Kalahari and the deep rural children in all the countries mentioned above as it has been the urbanized school children of Lusaka, Johannesburg and Maseru.

Another key strength of Breakthrough to Literacy is the integral elements of teacher training. It is often assumed in the schooling system is African countries that early literacy teaching is an easy task and one that is therefore assigned to the least experienced teachers. There teachers are then largely unsupported and having to contend with large classes and poor if any resources. Hence demoralization sets in Breakthrough restores teachers’ pride in their own competence because the methodology centres on providing teacher with strongly scaffolded training and classroom follow-up and a methodology that truly works.

Describe the primary problem(s) that your project is addressing.

Poor performance of children throughout the schooling system, based on a lack of ability to read that its roots in poor reading pedagogy in the early years of schooling. The additional primary problem that Breakthrough address is the need to teacher training in early literacy that is clear, easy to follow, responsive to context and that produces results.

Describe the steps that your organization is taking to make your project successful.

Breakthrough to Literacy is a flagship programme of our organization; Molteno Institute for Langauge and Literacy is both a service delivery and a research organization and we endeavour at all times to evaluate our impact and improve on the materials and training as we go along. We are currently in the process of adapting Breakthrough to Literacy to meet the changed priorities of the Botswana and South Africa curricula and the methodology has recently been adapted to meet the requirements.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Success in Year 1:

Completion of the changes to the programme for South Africa and Botswana.
Research into how materials can be produced even more cost effectively than at present, whilst retaining the same quality.
As Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy is a Non for Profit organization, is has to be stated that continued donor support is required in all the three years to ensure the sustainability.

Success in Year 2:

Implementation and evaluation of the newly development adaptations. The recommendation for the changes to be implemented in year 3.
Ensuring that our own training staff is developed and able to meet the challenges of teacher training and support in diverse contexts.

Success in Year 3:

Continued ability to respond and adapt to demand from our target groups. We would also like, if funding is available , to have been able to link our Adult Education programme with our school-based programme, putting more emphasis on the highly important links that need strengthen between home and school literacies.

Do you have a business plan or strategic plan? (yes/no)


What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 1:

Advocacy with our target groups at school, district, provinces and national levels, ensuring that the value of Breakthrough is widely known and appreciated.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 2:

Research and development, ensuring that Breakthrough continues to be relevant and the best that it can be.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 3:

Internal staff development, ensuring that our own staff are updated with regard to contextual and pedagogy factors so that they cannot only train on our product but they can assess and interpret the needs for literacy development and provide viable solutions that draw on Breakthrough but take account of teachers’ own early literacy.

Describe the expected results of these actions.

Molteno will be a powerful literacy NFO that only has best methodology available but also has the capacity to respond to different literacy learning situations and needs. We will be an organization that is continually growing and evolving.

What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

The innovation was first brought into life as long as 1975. However, since then, there have been many innovative steps taken to ensure that Breakthrough is as relevant today as it was then. The most recent of these steps has been inclusion in the version of a chlidren’s workbook because there is no practice of providing exercise books to children in that country. Hence we saw in the pilot that children were sharing one exercise book with their elder siblings.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

The innovator behind Breakthrough to Literacy is the late Professor Len Lanham. He was an unreasonable rigorous man applied linguist who conducted the original research to reach the finding that failure is secondary school is due to poor foundational literacy learning in the early years. He then set about finding a solution to this and with another innovator, Vic Rodseth, identified the exciting potential of Breakthrough to Literacy.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Hewlett Foundation website.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

a. Lack of financial support
b. Lack of strong collaboration between our organization and the Ministries of Education with which we work. It is essential that the partnership is formed from the outset. It is also from this partnership we build sustainability in-country such as (Zambia and Botswana), the programme does not need Molteno for its continued success.

Financing source


If yes, provide organization name.

Yes Breakthrough to Literacy is a key deliverable of the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy which is an established not-for-profit.

How long has this organization been operating? (i.e. less than a year; 1-5 years; more than 5 years)

more than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs? (yes/no)


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses? (yes/no)


The Story
Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government? (yes/no)


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

The success of Breakthrough to Literacy in schools is dependent on a strong partnership with the Ministry of Education at National, regional, district and school levels. We see our initiative as being about assisting Government to fulfill its mandate in terms of quality literacy provision, rather than ourselves as the sole implementers. Our credibility with the Ministries with which we work is also therefore of great importance and establishing a mutually this relationship is a key part of the approach.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the total number of employees and total number of volunteers at your organization?


What is your organization's business classification?

Non-profit/NGO/citizen sector organization

Have you received funding from any of the following groups? (Please check as many as apply.)

DFID (United Kingdom) , Ford Foundation , Kellogg Foundation , Rockefeller Foundation , USAID (United States) .