Experts ecstatic at school class time for Eastern languages

2013-11-07 00:00

“We’re ecstatic we’re getting recognition.”

That was the response of one Eastern language specialist to the news that the government was moving to make it possible for schools across the country to offer tuition during school hours in these languages if they wished.

Ram Maharaj, chairperson of the National Council for Eastern Languages (NCEL) and a member of the KZN legislature’s education portfolio committee, was quoted in a Durban newspaper at the weekend as saying that the Department of Education had given him permission to work with department officials and language experts to develop curricula for Arabic, Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. These curricula would be used in primary and secondary schools throughout the country.

Arabic teacher at Al Falaah School in Durban and a former matric examiner Irshad Amod said in reaction to the news that “this makes us, as minorities, very excited that we’re being given recognition and time on the timetable. Arabic is not only an Eastern language, it’s more African, since over 60% of Africans speak it.”

President of the Midlands Hindu Society Ranjiv Nirghin said the news was “encouraging … For many years since the late 1990s Eastern languages were relegated to an after-school exercise or private tuition exercise if students were interested and could afford to attend these classes, depriving the majority of the students of their right to learn their mother tongue, which resulted in the numbers of students pursuing Eastern languages declining nationally.”

He said his society would encourage pupils and parents to embrace the opportunity wholeheartedly.

DA MPL George Mari described the decision as “a remarkable shift from the recent past, when policy surrounding the tuition of these languages was marked by indecision and confusion”.

He said the confusion dated back to 2010 when a circular was sent to schools asking them to “take Eastern languages out of normal school hours. Many schools were affected and parents didn’t want to send their children to lessons after hours.”

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