[lg policy] South Africa: New schools language plan

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 26 15:43:29 UTC 2012

New schools language plan
25 Jan 2012
Thandiwe Jumo

AN African language policy for schools to ensure that every school
offers an African language from grade one through to grade 12 is in
the early stages of planning. Terence Khala, spokesperson for the
Department of Basic Education, could not say when the policy draft
would be unveiled and made available for public consultation. The
department added that the idea was that it would carry the relevant
costs for the policy to be implemented should it go through.

This year, many English Model C schools reportedly opted to drop
African languages after a recent curriculum change required them to
offer only one extra language to the first three grades instead of
two. Professor Russell Kaschula, head of the School of Languages at
Rhodes University, supported the notion that an African language
should be made compulsory. “A long-term plan for teaching in the
mother tongue, whilst acquiring appropriate levels of English and then
gradually transferring to English, must be put in place,” he said

“The problem now is that from grade four, many learners simply do not
have enough English understanding to learn the content subjects in
English. “Hence, the high drop-out rate when the very ill-informed
switch is suddenly made,” said Kaschula. South African Democratic
Teachers’ Union general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the policy was
way overdue.

“The promotion of African languages is a constitutional issue that is
vital in restoring the dignity of our people which was degraded during
the apartheid era,” he said. “In China, pupils are taught in Chinese
and they are developing both scientifically and technologically.”
National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa
spokesperson Anthony Pierce added that African languages must be given
the respect they deserve.

Under the new curriculum implemented this year, grade one to three
pupils are required to learn only one extra language. This means
pupils at English-medium schools can usually choose between Zulu,
Afrikaans, Xhosa and other languages in addition to English.

Pan South African Language Board chairperson Professor Sihawu Ngubane
criticised the trend of Afrikaans being chosen as an additional
language rather than African languages.

Recently, the portfolio committee of the Department of Arts and
Culture conducted public hearings on the proposed SA Language Bill.

Most submissions were in favour of pupils being taught in their
mother-tongue for at least the first six years of their education.


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