Mother tongue Education

2015-06-22 17:53

How can one master someone else’s language when they cannot even master their own? While we cannot dispute the benefits of children being taught in their mother tongue we also need to revisit roles and responsibilities around educating a child.

While some may blame our education system for failing to address the implementation of mother tongue education in schools, we also need to be practical and consider the role of parents in educating a child.

Family members play an important role as children’s first teacher. I write coming from an experience of being taught in my own mother tongue for the first half of my primary school. It was only in grade 7 when I moved to a multi-racial school. When I reflect and think back to the challenges I faced, what gave me confidence to transition to English was the strong support system of parents who were very much involved in my development.

It is often said that the “reason some black learners and students fail or do not do well is because they are taught all subjects in foreign languages. English and Afrikaans-speaking students have an advantage because they write exams in their native languages.”

Language is powerful. We cannot separate language from learning. One of the first Mathematics lessons happen at home when we teach children to count with their fingers. Children further progress to school where they learn about arithmetic, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Learning does not start or stop at school as children further come back home to apply addition and those arithmetic skills at home.

Parents need to remember that they are the first teachers. How do we expect to have an education system that caters for teaching children in native tongues when we constantly choose English over our native tongues?

Why do we blame language when kids fail at school? When you find children at malls and in other public places who no longer speak their mother tongues. If you take a closer look at the grade 12 results it is evident that the languages they fail are their own.

Language development starts at home, it is part of our identity. As a mother to a 4 year old who is not being taught in his mother tongue, I make it my personal responsibility to teach and communicate with him in his mother tongue. I cannot extend that responsibility to anyone else.

Children need to be comfortable in communicating in their own mother tongue first. How do we expect children to be comfortable in communicating in English when they fail in their own mother tongue? Let us stop looking and waiting for government to give us solutions and start respecting our own languages. Let us not condone failure or mediocrity by blaming it on languages.

As long as the parents are not involved in the education of their children, we will still experience failure.

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