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African languages to be compulsory for all pupils

Date Released: Thu, 13 June 2013 09:59 +0200

An African language - including Afrikaans - will be compulsory for all pupils until matric, according to a new policy which could be implemented at all schools from as early as next year.

The plan, which will be implemented incrementally until 2025, will see all pupils learning three languages.

For the first time, Afrikaans has been included as an African language. Previously the Department of Basic Education referred to African languages, English and Afrikaans.

The portfolio committees on basic education and higher education and training held a joint meeting on Tuesday in Parliament about the draft policy, which planned to make it compulsory for Grade R and Grade 1 pupils to learn a third, African language.

Pupils are currently required to learn two languages - their home language and an additional language.

Mathanzima Mweli, acting deputy director-general for curriculum, policy, monitoring and support, said, “The major change is that African languages will be offered at all schools offering Grade R and Grade 1.”

He attributed this to the “changing profile of learner population” at schools.

Mweli said the African language, which would include Xitsonga, any Nguni language, a Sotho language, Tshivenda or Afrikaans, would have to be learned at a first additional language level.

Mweli said members of the public would be called to comment on the draft policy in a month’s time.

Addressing concerns that there would not be sufficient teachers, Mweli said audits of teachers had been conducted in all provinces.

“We have the teachers to implement this policy.”

He said there was concern about whether there would be sufficient teachers as the policy was upscaled to Grade 12, but engagements were taking place with the Higher Education and Training Department to ensure teachers were trained.

Mweli also said they realised additional time would have to be added to the school day and were discussing this with the education labour relations council.

The portfolio committees welcomed the plan by the Department of Basic Education to incrementally implement the use of African languages in all South African schools.

Basic education committee chairwoman Hope Malgas expressed appreciation that the “long overdue” step had finally been taken.

The committee on Tuesday expressed reservations about whether Afrikaans would not dominate the choice as a first additional language.

It had also expressed concerns about the department’s readiness to implement the programme by next year.

Malgas said the committee would monitor the department’s progress on the plan, and that the department would have to come back later in the year to give an update on its readiness.

The higher education and training committee chairman, Ishmael Malale, expressed his appreciation that this would be done to improve the state of education and to elevate indigenous languages in South Africa.

The Cape Times reported last month that primary school pupils in Grade R and Grade 1 would have to learn an African language as a first additional language.

Reasons given were to “promote multilingualism” and foster “social cohesion”.

Educationists had raised concerns including fitting an additional language into the school timetable and the availability of trained teachers.

The department said it would prepare for “full-scale implementation” by phasing in the policy at selected schools in each of the provinces this year.


By Michelle Jones

Source:  Cape Times