South Africa: Mother takes school to court over Zulu lessons
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Sun Jan 13 16:09:49 UTC 2008
Mother takes school to court over Zulu lessons
MONICA LAGANPARSAD Published:Jan 13, 2008
'My son had failed for the first time in his life'
A TOP Durban school is facing a legal challenge — over its language lessons.
The mother of a pupil at Durban High School, who is a linguist, is
challenging the school for teaching her son substandard Zulu. The case
is set to be of national importance concerning the monitoring of the
implementation of the national education policy on languages at
schools, and could force schools to re-address the standards at which
they teach additional languages. The complaint has been lodged in
Durban's Equality Court by Ntomenhle Rosemary Nkosi on behalf of her
son against the school and its deputy principal Marie Vermaak. Nkosi,
the chief executive officer of the Pan South African Language Board
(Pansalb), claimed in an affidavit that the school had misinterpreted
the national education policy.
She has accused the boys' school of "humiliating" the then Grade 8
pupil on the basis of discrimination of language. Pansalb is based in
Pretoria and was established by Parliament to promote multilingualism
in SA. In her son's first-term report, Nkosi noticed that his
languages of study were English first language, Afrikaans additional
language and Zulu, second additional language. Nkosi said she objected
to the school's application of the language policy, and discussed her
objections with Vermaak during a meeting in August. She said her son
had not been given the right to choose the level of instruction for
Zulu or Afrikaans as set down by the national curriculum statement for
She wanted the school to teach her son his mother tongue, Zulu, on a
higher level. Dave Magner, the school's headmaster, told the Sunday
Times this week that a policy was in place for Grade 8 pupils this
year. He said the school had to reshuffle its staff and timetable to
split the classes into a beginners' and an advanced class for Zulu,
which he said would segregate pupils. "We will end up in a situation
with a majority of the pupils whose mother tongue is Zulu in one class
and the English-speaking pupils in another class.
"We do not want to segregate our pupils as our aim is to integrate
However, the change in policy will not address Nkosi's concerns.
"I raised with her [Vermaak] the issue that some parents are not aware
that ex-model C schools teach their children who are first- language
speakers of Zulu, third- level Zulu [which is the level for learners
who are not first-language speakers of Zulu], but in my case, I know
the difference which is why I insisted that my child be taught at the
Nkosi said that her son had failed Afrikaans in his third term, and
that the teacher had made a scathing attack on him.
"My son had failed for the first time in his life.
"In Grade 7 he received a scholarship for his good academic
performance; now he had been made to feel worthless by failing
Afrikaans and being told by the teacher that he is ill-disciplined,
thus removing the blame from the school and making my child the wrong
party," said Nkosi.
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