The majority of schools do not have libraries and it will cost a staggering R2,2-billion to build one in each school, to stock it with books and to pay the salaries of librarians for 10 years, says the civil society group Equal Education (EE).
"It is shocking. It really goes to the heart of the South African education crisis," said the EE's Doron Isaacs.
The lack of libraries significantly contributed to the poor grasp of literacy and numeracy among millions of South African pupils, he said.
"Many Grade 1s will arrive at school and for the entire year they will only get to read about three or four books, whereas children in (former) model C schools will have two to three library books in their bags every day from Grade one," he added.