Celebrating International Mother Tongue Day

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Tue Feb 21 13:42:07 UTC 2006

20 February 2006
SOURCE: Ministry of Education (Provincial Government of the Western Cape)

Joint Media Statement by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport,
Western Cape Provincial Language Committee, Western Cape branch of PanSALB
and the Western Cape Education Department

Two Ministries in the Western Cape Provincial Government will tomorrow
mark the progress so far towards a plan to promote Mother-tongue-based
Bilingual education in schools, as part of celebrating International
Mother Tongue Day (21 February). Education MEC Cameron Dugmore together
with Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC Whitey Jacobs, will share the stage
with Dr Kathleen Heugh of the Human Sciences Research Council tomorrow in
a special celebratory event.

Some of the audience expected at the celebrations tomorrow * 18h30 at the
Isilimela Comprehensive School in Washington Street, Langa * will include
language activists, publishers, tertiary institutions, unions, business,
library staff, representatives of school governing body associations,
members of the Deaf community, members of the interim provincial
representative council of learners and fully representative groups from
primary schools across the urban metropole. This special function is
jointly hosted by the Provincial Language Committee under the auspices of
the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, the Pan South African
Language Board (Pansalb) and the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

The focus for this event and worldwide is the fact that those who are
educated through their mother tongue for a minimum of six years have a
greater chance of scholastic success than those who have to convert to
another language when they are too young. MEC Dugmore comments "It's
important for parents to realise that this is not an "either-or" model but
a "both-and" model. BOTH the mother-tongue AND an additional language are
developed to the point where the learner is able to learn well through
either medium. Research tell us that this normally takes about six years."

Dr Heugh is part of an international task team, which has done extensive
research on Mother Tongue tuition on the African continent. The task team
will be reporting to an eminent group of African Education Ministers
towards the end of next month. She will share some of her findings from
the African research task team, "Current Research Findings in Africa:
Mother Tongue and prospects of educational success". The video "Sink or
Swim", shown recently on Special Assignment, will be viewed, after which
an "open discussion" session, chaired by language specialist, Dr Sydney
Zotwana, will follow.

Earlier in the day (12h30), MEC Dugmore will be visiting the Bot Rivier
Primary School to celebrate the opening of a Xhosa stream at the school.
>>From the 1st of February an additional teacher has been appointed to teach
a class of Grade 1 learners, without which these learners would not have
had a school to accommodate them. The introduction of the Xhosa stream and
the appointment of a Xhosa-speaking teacher at this school follows
concerns raised by the community during a Provincial Government Imbizo in
Grabouw last year.  Parents, councillors, officials and community members
will join the MEC at the short celebration.

International Mother Tongue Day has its origin in a 1999 Unesco General
Conference (30th Session) resolution adopted to celebrate "Mother Tongue"
or "Mother Language" annually on 21 February. It is seen as a day to focus
attention, worldwide, on language preservation and everything related to
one's mother tongue. MEC Jacobs will refer to the provincial language
policy and to cementing relationships with the education department across
a number of spheres. He will refer to the mandate of the provincial
language committee and the urgent need for the mother tongues of all of
the people of the province to be respected. The Department of Arts and
Culture is mandated to oversee language policy and development at a
national level.

MEC Dugmore will refer to the introduction of the Xhosa stream at Bot
River, and says "* it is steps like this that will help learners all over
the province to access the education that they deserve.". "The first phase
of our 2006 plan to promote Mother-tongue-based bilingual education, which
falls under the overall provincial strategy to improve literacy and
numeracy levels, will be to call on our schools to volunteer to join the
Language-in-Education Transformation Programme.

"A draft document which has been in circulation since the end of October
has received very favourable support so far from stakeholders," said MEC
Dugmore, adding that "we are nearly ready to table a proposal for the
consideration of the provincial cabinet". "The two provincial goals will
be to extend the use of Mother-Tongue in the classroom to the end of Grade
6 wherever practicable (while simultaneously developing very strong skills
in an additional language * typically this will be English) and; secondly
to grow multilingualism in the province by ensuring that all learners have
at least three years of all three of the languages of the province before
the end of the General Education and Training Band (Grade 9).

Meanwhile, the WCED has also encouraged schools to plan their own
celebrations and events, and in a circular made wide-ranging suggestions,
which include inviting speakers, to watching educational videos and
writing essays and poems. The department has told schools in the circular
that "this focus is particularly relevant in light of current plans by the
WCED to strengthen mother-tongue education in the province".

"It is very important for schools to think deeply about the issues so that
the day is an affirming one for all who speak languages which are
different from the Language of Learning and Teaching at the school," the
circular says. The WCED has provided information for further reading on
its Curriculum Development website (http://curriculum.wcape.school.za).
Edulis, the WCED's library service, has also provided a list of
recommended titles for the day, which are available at the WCED's teaching
resource centres in each district.

According to Dr Michael le Cordeur, chairperson of the Western Cape
Language Committee "The committee has decided on a 2006 drive to increase
awareness of the needs of the deaf community and Sign Language". The
committee is distributing a booklet entitled "Learn more about Sign
Language", as well as a leaflet with the letters of the alphabet in Sign
Language. The committee has commented as follows: "The lack of knowledge
by the inhabitants of the Western Cape regarding Sign Language has
resulted in misconceptions about the deaf community. Sign Language has its
own grammatical structures with its own syntax and satisfies all the
criteria for being an independent language."

For enquiries, contact Gert Witbooi: 082 550 3938

Gert Witbooi
Media Liaison Officer
Office of the MEC for Education
Western Cape
Tel: 021 467 2523
Fax: 021 425 5689
Visit our website: http://wced.wcape.gov.za


More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list