Language policy hits snag

2013-05-23 00:00

THE Department of Basic Education will not employ new teachers at primary schools, which will be required to teach an additional African language from 2014.

The policy was discussed and approved by the Council of Education Ministers and department heads of two years ago.

It has been met with mixed reactions, with most school governing bodies raising objections.

The Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) supports the idea in principle, but CEO Paul Colditz said the way the policy was going to be implemented was a concern.

He said there were about 24 000 public schools in the country and he believes the Department of Basic Education will need at least two additional teachers per school.

He is also worried that there are not enough resources and that another subject will mean that school hours will need to be extended.

At the moment, he said, the most popular languages were Zulu and Xhosa.

But in Gauteng one could find about 10 different languages being spoken in one class.

“Most people are not interested in indigenous languages because they’re interested in their children learning their mother tongue,” he said.

The Governing Body Foundation CEO Tim Gordon raised similar concerns. He believes the plan has not been thought through carefully enough.

Gordon pointed out that curriculum timetables were already full, there were staffing problems and that Grade Rs were too young to learn an additional language.

At this age children were still grappling with their mother tongue, he added.

He believes that most schools will choose Zulu as their additional language in KwaZulu-Natal.

The two governing bodies will meet the department next week.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa president Basil Manuel said the department’s policy was long overdue.

“You can’t sit in a country with 11 languages and ignore nine of them.”

African languages needed to be developed but without sidelining Afrikaans, he said.

He cautioned that using existing teachers would put pressure on the curriculum.

SA Democratic Teachers’ Union spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said her members welcomed the policy but feared the plan might not be implemented next year because of a lack of resources.

Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy CEO Masennya Dikotla said the policy was excellent as it would promote multi-lingualism and foster social cohesion.

However, unless teachers are properly trained, they were setting pupils up for failure, he warned.

Basic Education Department’s spokesperson Hope Mokgatlhe said the subject would not strain pupils.

“We already have workbooks in all official languages which are adequate for the teaching and learning of an additional African Language,” she said.

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