New schools language plan

2012-01-25 00:00

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 yesterday.

“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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