[lg policy] South Africa: Schools to offer African languages

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 9 14:56:31 UTC 2014

 Schools to offer African language September 8 2014 at 09:39am
By Ilse Fredericks  Comment on this story
IOL Xhosa Class DONE.JPG] Independent Newspapers Teacher Nomonde Windvoel
uses puppets to teach pupils during an isiXhosa class at Montevideo Primary
School in Valhalla Park. Picture: Willem Law

Cape Town - Nearly 4 000 schools across South Africa are expected to
introduce an African language in Grade 1 next year following the success of
a pilot project in 228 schools this year.

The Department of Basic Education’s Incremental Introduction of African
Languages (IIAL) initiative will be implemented in 3 738 schools next year,
spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said.

He said the targeted schools did not offer an African language in Grade 1.

“It is envisaged that in each year thereafter a subsequent grade will
introduce IIAL until all grades implement an African language.”

The Eastern Cape, where isiXhosa was piloted in 87 schools, had the highest
number of pilot schools, while Setswana was the second most dominant
language in the pilot project.

In the Western Cape 10 schools volunteered to participate in the pilot and
introduced isiXhosa in Grade 1.

“One of the aims of the IIAL is social cohesion, and this has been realised
in all the pilot schools where the whole school community have supported
the offering of an African language in the curriculum. Parents in
particular have requested that IIAL should be continued.”

But the department may be jumping the gun, Governing Body Foundation
national chief Tim Gordon says.

“The intention is very good, but we don’t think that the somewhat
half-baked pilot project has given us sufficient information,” he said.

“There are massive logistic difficulties that have to be overcome.”

Gordon said the problems in hiring first language staff would be huge, as
well as catering for families who change schools and areas. “What happens
if your primary school teaches Sepedi, and then the high school you go to
teaches Sotho? They haven’t taken into account the mobility of the

Another issue is time, and Gordon doesn’t believe there should be too much
more of it in the school day.

“I don’t think we can have an additional four hours added on to our school
week. They need to cut back on other things to make space for this, instead
of extending the school day.”

Gordon also said that a recent study of matric education suggested that
seven subjects were already too many, and officials should be looking at
cutting back instead of adding on.

Importantly, Gordon said, the proposed African language curriculum should
break free of the academic mould other subjects were taught in, to favour
practicality over theory.

“We would prefer to see a strong focus on an oral component,” he said. “One
needs to be able to talk to people in the languages - not just study them
at an abstract level at school.”

Education MEC Debbie Schafer said it was too early to judge the proposed

“We are waiting for a formal indication on the highest level nationally
including indications of the planned budget.”

Last year Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the intention of
the African language policy was to promote and develop previously
marginalised languages and expose pupils to “languages academically that
they may use at home but do not study as part of the curriculum, as well as
introduce those who have never been exposed to an African language”.

Her department also said that because the policy would be implemented
gradually, there would be enough African language teachers.

Mhlanga said that extending the school day (in order to offer an African
language) had been challenging in some schools, but with support and
guidance this was managed.

Earlier this year Terence Timmet, principal of Montevideo Primary in
Montana, one of the 10 Western Cape pilot schools, told the Cape Argus that
he hoped learning isiXhosa would improve his pupils’ future job prospects.

“Our hope is that it (the project) will be extended for years to come so
that our learners from all race groups in the Western Cape can benefit
equally from the language tuition,” he said. - Additional reporting by
Chelsea Geach.
ilse.fredericks at inl.co.za


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