South Africa: Department praises language ruling

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sun Oct 5 17:05:15 UTC 2008


Department praises language ruling
By Keith Ross

Pressure on schools - many of them already struggling with scarce
resources - to provide greater parity in language instruction has been
increased by a judgment handed down by the Equality Court in Durban.
The court found this week that Durban High School had discriminated
against a Grade 8 pupil in 2007 by offering him Zulu tuition only at
the lowest language level (LLC3). The school at the time offered
English as a first language at LLC1 and Afrikaans at LLC2. This was
discriminatory, the court found, in that pupils whose home language
was Afrikaans received a greater number of lessons at a higher level
of tuition than those who were obliged to learn Zulu at the LLC3

The court said the ideal was for DHS to offer Zulu at the highest
level of tuition, but it stopped short of finding that the school
should do so. The ideal standard, the judgment said, was one which "no
school in this province or this country meets". It added that a
finding by the court that the school should meet this ideal would not,
under the circumstances "serve any real lasting or worthwhile
But the judgment does paint a very clear picture of the need for more
parity and this, said the national department of education, was fully
in line with its own aims. The department added, however, that there
were some huge obstacles to climb in parts of the country.

"We will be studying the judgment fully," said Director General of
Education Duncan Hindle, "but on the first reading I don't take any
issue with it. Our policy has always been to build a multilingual
nation and this judgment is very much in line with what we want to
Hindle said his department would like to move faster in achieving
this, but it was hampered by "resource constraints". He said the
problem was less intimidating in KwaZulu-Natal, where the population
was largely homogeneous in speaking Zulu. "It is a lot more complex in
Gauteng, with all 11 official languages being used - and some
unofficial ones as well."

Hindle said all schools were being encouraged to offer African
languages, but in urban areas account had to be taken of the logistics
involved. "Teachers of African languages are also among our most
scarce resources." He said most schools offered the language of
instruction at "level one".  Other languages, like Afrikaans in an
English-language school, would be offered at a different level.

"We have expressed the view that every school should offer an African
language at LLC2 level." Schools should also work towards an ideal
where they could offer more than one language at LLC1, he said. His
assurances about progress were repeated in KwaZulu-Natal, where Mbali
Thusi, spokesperson for education MEC Ina Cronje, said every effort
was being made to meet the language needs of the communities in the
province. Thusi said the number of high schools that offered Zulu at
first language level now stood at 1 471, an increase of 176 since

"We are very proud of this achievement and it dispels the
often-repeated myth that the status of Zulu is declining. The majority
of schools in KwaZulu-Natal offer Zulu." The department was also
looking at the possibility of including tuition in Eastern languages
in KwaZulu-Natal schools and providing more support for Xhosa. In
KwaZulu-Natal the overwhelming majority of school pupils spoke Zulu as
their mother tongue, said the magistrate, J V Sanders, when presenting
his "personal view" at the end of the judgment. "The ideal of true,
meaningful and lasting transformation in the area at which Zulu is
taught at schools, is that every single school in this province should
be fully equipped to offer Zulu at LLC1 level."

"It is my considered view that the day that Zulu is indeed offered at
LLC1 level by all, or at least the vast majority of schools in
KwaZulu-Natal, then genuine transformation in this area would have
been achieved." The court hearing followed a complaint by Ntombenhle
Nkosi, who claimed the school was discriminating against her son and
pursuing a policy of "subjugation of indigenous languages". Nkosi, the
chief executive of the Pan South African Language Board, claimed that
the children at the school were being taught "kitchen Zulu". The court
ruled that her son's name must not be published.

This article was originally published on page 4 of The Sunday Tribune
on October 05, 2008

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