African languages for Grade 1s in 2018

2017-07-13 13:39
The Department of Basic Education wants the African languages to be taught at all government schools.

The Department of Basic Education wants the African languages to be taught at all government schools. (File)

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Grade 1 pupils are to be taught an African language from next year, as the Department of Basic Education begins implementing its plan to teach indigenous languages at all government schools.

The department wants to begin a gradual phasing-in period starting with Grade 1s at all 3 558 government schools, with the ultimate plan being for all grades to be taught African languages by 2029.

According to the department, 686 government schools in KwaZulu-Natal offer no African languages — the second highest number in the country, behind the Western Cape.

A total of 314 schools teach African languages in the province.

The department has run pilot tests in hundreds of schools since 2014, and there are currently 973 schools nationally that teach African languages.

Department director-general Mathanzima Mweli told a recent portfolio committee meeting that the idea behind the process was to “improve proficiency in previously marginalised African languages”.

But the Democratic Alliance shadow minister Ian Ollis doubted the plan could be implemented as soon as next year.

“I think it’s going to be delayed. There has been no budget allocation to get teachers. The challenge is to hire staff to teach and schools now need to offer multiple languages that weren’t there before.”

He said the party supported the undertaking. “But it does have its limitations.”

Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga did not answer detailed questions, but referred The Witness to a presentation delivered at the portfolio committee meeting.

It said a budget for the process will be submitted to National Treasury at the end of this month.

It added that teachers in existing staff bodies may be required to teach African languages, should staffing be an issue.

But education analyst at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Professor Labby Ramrathan warned it was not as simple as merely roping in a teacher who could speak an African language.

“It’s a difficult situation. The question is how to teach in home languages, and it’s not that simple; they need to be trained.

“It’s easy to say ‘let’s learn African languages’, but do we have the resources for it?” said Ramrathan.

UKZN will from next year make it compulsory for students studying foundation phase education to learn how to teach their modules in Zulu, he said.

“We need to ask what is possible to change in the medium to long term; we can’t just change things. We need a plan and this is where we are failing. The curriculum is always chopping and changing and that is a major problem.”

He added: “We’re not ready, and it would be superficial if it happens. We have no capacity for introducing it.”


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