South Africa: Speakers hail multilingual maths, science school book

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Fri Mar 9 13:36:58 UTC 2007

Speakers hail multilingual maths, science school book

By Mike Loewe Grahamstown Correspondent

THE Eastern Cape is snapping up one of the hottest South African books a
funky multilingual resource book which educates teachers and pupils about
54 key concepts in maths and science. There was laughter and amazement
when teachers read out explanations of angles in all four different
languages isiXhosa, isiZulu, English and Afrikaans. The book explains in
paragraphs and diagrams terms in the various languages. The book
Understanding Concepts in Mathematics and Science: A multilingual learning
and teaching resource in isiXhosa, isiZulu, English and Afrikaans was
launched by Rhodes Vice-Chancellor Dr Saleem Badat before about 80 people
last night.

It was a joyous affair, with Badat proclaiming the book to be a
progressive breakthrough in the struggle to liberate South Africans from
the barriers of language which were imposed on South Africans by the
apartheid government and its colonial predecessors for almost 300 years.
It is a beautiful, exciting, imaginative and innovative book which
recognises how a whole people was stifled intellectually for 300 years. As
head of the national task team on language policy in higher education in
2001, Badat said he had an intimate understanding of the problem, and he
fully supported the national language policy which advocated a creative
start to developing indigenous languages in schools and higher education

Thousands of teachers in South Africa had been underdeveloped by the
language policies of the past and this meant that students were arriving
at universities under- prepared for their academic career. The majority of
pupils were being taught in a second or third language English. How on
earth can people being taught like this understand? he asked. Rhodes
education head professor Marc Schafer said of the 4 000 copies printed, 2
000 had been bought in the Eastern Cape. He praised the eight Makana
teachers present, who had taken the manuscript into their classrooms and
put the concepts into practice during a six-month trial period.

Their feedback mostly about translations and concept descriptions had been
critical in shaping the final version which is aimed at children up to
Grade 9. The book, which was given R5-million in funding by Zenex, and
printed by Maskew Miller Longman, was a collaborative effort involving 10
energetic and committed authors from Rhodes, the University of Cape Town
and KwaZulu Natal University. Schafer led the maths team. A similar book
for Grade 10 to 12 comes out at the end of the year. UCT professor and
project co-ordinator Professor Doug Young said: This is a teachers
resource book aimed at helping teachers interpret the new Outcomes Based
Education curriculum.

The project had discovered huge gaps when science and maths were taught in
English to isiXhosa, isiZulu and Afrikaans speaking children. The book had
taken four years to research. Young thanked Zenex for their money and
Maskew Miller Longman for publishing the book, and said all royalties
would be ploughed back into the project. The books costs R90.


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