Zulu as first language in more schools?

2008-10-01 00:00

The KZN Education Department has set up a task team to look into the possibility of offering Zulu as a first language in more schools.

The department was responding to questions after the Equality Court found that Durban High School’s language policy discriminated against its Zulu-speaking learners.

Ntombenhle Nkosi, who is also chief executive officer of the Pan South African Languages Board (Pansalb), went to court to complain that her son was taught sub-standard or “kitchen Zulu” at the school.

Department spokeswoman Mbali Thusi said the number of schools offering Zulu as a first language has increased from 1 295 in 1994 to 1 471 currently.

Reacting to the ruling, Pansalb said more could be done by government. The board said it will engage with the national minister and provincial MECs to ensure that schools are “fully equipped” to offer Zulu and all official languages on LLC1 (the highest level).

Pansalb spokesman Sibusiso Nkosi said the government has not treated the language issue at schools as a top priority.

“If this issue is not properly addressed it can lead to government also being taken to court.”

Board chairman Professor Sihawukele Ngubane said the ruling should serve as a warning to former Model C schools that they need to transform.

“Our demographics are changing and that must be reflected in [the schools’] determination of their language policies,” he said.

The ruling was widely welcomed by teacher unions, parents and cultural activists in the province.

SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) provincial spokesman, Sipho “KK” Nkosi, said the ruling was a victory for “our children”.

“Our children have been deprived of understanding their culture and language is the biggest vehicle for this … We are one of the few countries that undermine indigenous languages and the judgment has enforced the importance of language,” he said.

National Teachers’ Union (Natu) spokesman Musa Gumede said the department need to create posts to address the shortage of vernacular language teachers.

However, the spokesman for the National Association of Professional Teachers of SA, Anthony Pierce, said there are simply not enough teachers qualified to teach Zulu as a first language.

Former Zulu lecturer, cultural activist and MPL, Professor Jabulani Maphalala, however, said there are enough qualified teachers.

“We … need to change our mindsets. There are still those, especially in the middle class, who perceive Zulu as a primitive language.”

Premier S’bu Ndebele said the government will be more vigilant in monitoring the provision of languages at schools, adding that those schools found to be teaching any of the 11 languages poorly will be “taken to task”.

Nkosi told The Witness that she took the matter to court as she felt that she was not getting value for money.

“We as African parents pay the same monies towards school fees at these [former Model C] schools, but we do not get the same service that other parents get.”

sphumem@witness.co.za

bmbanjwa@witness.co.za

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