Original Research

Difficulties in teaching Grade 3 learners with reading problems in full-service schools in South Africa

Thembi A. Phala, Anna Hugo
African Journal of Disability | Vol 11 | a906 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajod.v11i0.906 | © 2022 Thembi A. Phala, Anna Hugo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 June 2021 | Published: 10 February 2022

About the author(s)

Thembi A. Phala, Department of Early Childhood Education, College of Education, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Anna Hugo, Department of Language Education, Arts and Culture, College of Education, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: Many primary school learners in South Africa, including those in so-called full-service schools (FSSs), are reading below their grade level.

Objectives: The authors of this article embarked on a study to find out what difficulties a group of Grade 3 teachers in full-service school faced to support their young custodians with reading problems.

Methods: The research followed a qualitative approach using semi-structured interviews and classroom observation.

Results: The data showed that the reading problems experienced by some Grade 3 learners can be attributed to the multiple levels of the education system. On the macro system as set out by Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory where the government and provincial departments operate, the first issue was the national department’s progression policy which allows Grade 2 learners to progress to Grade 3 without the required reading competency. The second issue was a lack of enough readers and overcrowding in classrooms. Problems on the microsystem included aspects such as the language of learning and teaching; learners’ reading skills and attitudes towards reading; teachers’ lack of knowledge about diverse learning needs and parental support.

Conclusion: It is envisaged that the study will contribute to an understanding of the teachers’ difficulties in teaching reading so that the Grade 3 learners’ reading problems especially those in FSSs could be dealt with through combined efforts of all the stakeholders in the education system.


full-service schools; Grade 3 teachers; learner support teachers; reading problems; Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory


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