File photo: Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Pretoria - The Department of Basic Education (DBE) said on Friday it was concerned by the spread of fake news, including a report report which had DBE Minister Angie Motshekga reportedly warning against children doing too much reading as this could cause brain cancer.

In a statement, the DBE said it had noted the "recent spate of fake news doing the rounds on social media" and despite the "ridiculous nature of the statements some members of the public have expressed concern over the fake reports".

"We would like to reassure the public that the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga has never said that too much studying causes brain cancer," the department said. "The fake news article quotes the Minister as saying 'Learners must take care of themselves and rest these holidays. I would advise them not to touch their books so they can rest their brains because studying too much causes brain cancer'.

The statement added: "Anyone who follows the Minister’s interventions would know that the Minister is a passionate advocate of reading, as well as an avid reader herself. She has on numerous occasions urged learners to use their free time to discover the magic of books, and she encourages parents to buy books for their children instead of toys. She has also launched the Read to Lead Campaign which is a reading advocacy initiative that urges learners and parents to drop all and read for 30 minutes a day.

"Another item of fake news is reporting that the Minister of Basic Education wants to help school 'drop outs' get employment by giving them Matric certificates as long as they are able to read and write. This is not true the Minister has said no such thing and there are no plans to give anyone who does not pass the National Senior Certificate examinations a Matric Certificate.

"We urge members of the public to be vigilant about verifying what they read before they share it on social media. This type of malicious content is created with the express intent to cause confusion and to cause the public to lose confidence in Government. We condemn these reports in the strongest possible terms."