Despite the progress made in transforming the country's education system, the number of illiterate adults is still too high, says Education Minister Naledi Pandor.
The minister addressed the International Literacy Day Award ceremony at the Cape Town's International Convention Centre last night.
The awards ceremony coincided with Readathon Week as well as International Literacy Day.
"Even though significant strides have been made in reducing the number of adults with no education at all, there are still too many adults who only have a primary school education," she said.
According to the Department of Education, illiteracy rates in South Africa stands at 29 percent currently.
Minister Pandor said this created a barrier in social and economic development, and in strengthening the democratic process of governance in South Africa.
"It is difficult to live the full life expected of a citizen in a modern democracy if you are illiterate," she said.
Nonetheless, some organisations are doing their best to improve literacy levels in this country.
In this regard, four awards went to organisations at the ceremony. This for improving people's lives by offering quality adult basic education, advanced business and skills training, HIV and AIDS education and training, substance abuse and career guidance.
The Osizweni Community Development Centre in Mpumalanga received the first prize of R150 000.
The Montle SANLI Centre in the North West received R80 000, while the Outstanding Merit Award went to the De Beers Finsch Mine Outhunting ABET Centre.
A special prize of R20 000 was given to the Johannesburg Correctional Centre B in Diepkloof, Soweto.
The minister said illiteracy forced people to rely on third parties for information on their basic rights and responsibilities.
She said government should intensify its efforts towards eliminating illiteracy in the country especially among previously disadvantaged people.
She said a parent's lack of basic education, also hindered them from assisting their children with schoolwork, leading to poor performance by many learners.
"The campaign for literacy among adults is in my view a campaign for improved performance for our children."
The minister commended all role players involved in the campaign to improve literacy levels in the country and the region, saying a strong culture of reading should be cultivated among all age groups and cultures.
She encouraged the award winners to use this as an incentive to work even harder.