Top award for Elphin Lodge’s Edna

Only a few years away from her 90th birthday, Edna Freinkel is still working. South Africa’s queen of literacy says she cannot retire while so many South Africans are still unable to read or write.

A resident of Rand Aid’s Elphin Lodge, Edna won the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards’ Europcar Women In Leadership Award 2019 on Sunday, September 7. There were over 920 guests at the awards ceremony, amongst whom were many high-profile personalities including cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, community leaders and business moguls.

“How proud we are of Edna. There were a number of amazing and powerful women nominated in this category yet one of our own, 87-year-old Edna, was deemed the worthiest recipient of this prize,” says Phyllis Phillips, Elphin Lodge’s Liaison Manager.

Edna has dedicated her life to fighting one of the greatest societal ills – illiteracy – and has received numerous accolades over the years.

In 2017, she received a Lifetime Achiever award as one of CEO Global’s ‘most influential women in business and government’. Other recipients included Graca Machel, Wendy Ackerman, Carol Brown and Professor Glenda Gray.

In 2004, Edna received the South African Presidential Award of the Order of Baobab for her lifelong dedication to the development of specialised learning methods for the learning impaired and in 2010, she was awarded the UNISA Outstanding Educator Award.

However, Edna is driven by her passion to make a difference in the lives of illiterate people and not by public recognition.

Much of her work has been done through Readucate, a Trust registered in 1991 to ‘make a difference between dreams and destitution’.

Readucate – a marriage between ‘read’ and ‘educate’ – works mainly in schools and rehabilitation centres, thus changing the lives of both children and adults. In prisons, literate inmates are trained as instructors so that they can teach illiterate offenders, which means the project has a greater reach and is more sustainable.

Edna’s mother, Rebecca Ostrowiak, was a literacy pioneer who developed a multi-sensory approach to learning to read. In 1969, Rebecca and Edna established the Rebecca Ostrowiak School of Reading in Germiston, which they ran together.

Although financial pressure and time constraints saw Edna eventually selling the school, Readucate continues Rebecca’s legacy.

Funding remains Edna’s biggest obstacle, but she forges on regardless.

For further information on Readucate, email

Edna Freinkel with her most recent award.


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