Par­ents re­sist mother tongue

CityPress - - News - MSINDISI FENGU mnsin­disi.fengu@city­press.co.za

Many black par­ents are pre­vent­ing ef­forts aimed at ed­u­cat­ing their chil­dren in their mother tongue out of fear that this will ad­versely af­fect their fu­ture job prospects, ac­cord­ing to Pear­son In­sti­tute aca­demic Dr Nh­lanhla Th­wala.

Th­wala was re­spond­ing to a pre­sen­ta­tion made by his col­league Brian Wafawarowa, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for learn­ing ser­vices at Pear­son, dur­ing Edu Week – a two-day sub­Sa­ha­ran Africa con­fer­ence on ed­u­ca­tion in Johannesburg.

Wafawarowa tabled a pa­per on ex­plor­ing the im­por­tance of teach­ing, read­ing and writ­ing in a mother tongue to im­prove lit­er­acy and ed­u­ca­tion out­comes, and ar­gued that this would cre­ate a con­ducive learn­ing process. How­ever, he ex­plained that his pa­per was not ad­vo­cat­ing for English to be dumped.

He said stud­ies showed that chil­dren who were in­tro­duced to their mother tongue in grades one to three and grad­u­ally in­tro­duced to English from Grade 4 per­formed bet­ter.

“Mother tongue us­age can im­prove lit­er­acy in ed­u­ca­tion and im­prove learn­ing out­comes. The use of African lan­guages can im­prove pro­duc­tiv­ity in the work­place and en­hance so­cial co­he­sion. To achieve this, the role of African lan­guages in ed­u­ca­tion, so­ci­ety and the work­place needs to be af­firmed be­yond the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem,” Wafawarowa ex­plained.

Th­wala said: “This is an ele­phant in the room. Be­cause of the coun­try’s colo­nial past, par­ents still view English as the only lan­guage that will get their chil­dren into top jobs.”

He said the will of par­ents not to steer a school in this direc­tion al­ways won when­ever thor­ough dis­cus­sions about the topic took place in schools. City Press spoke to par­ents to find out what they thought about Wafawarowa’s call.

Monde Duma, whose wife took Gonu­bie Pri­mary School in East Lon­don to court in 2012 over a lan­guage pol­icy dis­pute to force the school to make isiXhosa an ad­di­tional first lan­guage, said what hap­pened in schools re­flected power re­la­tions in so­ci­ety.

“In our case, there has never been an ap­petite to pro­mote and de­velop our lan­guages, even in this demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tion. There is also a ten­dency for black par­ents to go along with the sta­tus quo by not ad­vo­cat­ing for mean­ing­ful change be­cause of the en­ergy and costs in­volved in pur­su­ing such projects in an en­vi­ron­ment where the sys­tem is loaded against the black child and par­ent.”

He blamed for­mer Model C schools, say­ing they ma­nip­u­lated the elec­tions of school govern­ing bod­ies, whereby a ma­jor­ity of white par­ents were elected into the body to de­fend the sta­tus quo.

“Later, the school govern­ing body chair­per­son goes shop­ping for a pli­ant black par­ent who won’t chal­lenge or ad­vo­cate for the in­ter­ests of the black child and par­ent, but will en­dorse de­ci­sions to le­git­imise those de­ci­sions in the eyes of all par­ents,” Duma said, adding that African lan­guages were still not given the same sta­tus as English and Afrikaans.

“I ac­tu­ally would not blame a par­ent who thinks that these lan­guages will not put bread on the ta­ble and al­low their chil­dren to com­pete as equals in South African so­ci­ety. From a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, they may be right be­cause there is hardly any­thing in our so­ci­ety that has trans­formed – not our ed­u­ca­tion or econ­omy, and you can­not sep­a­rate the two as they feed into each other,” Duma said.

Aretha Lin­den said she would like her chil­dren to be taught in isiXhosa, but, sadly, so­ci­ety was not so “wel­com­ing” of nonEnglish speak­ing peo­ple. The stan­dards set by so­ci­ety makes it hard for non-speak­ing English peo­ple to “make it”.

Scish Mtwesi said it was fruit­less to learn an in­dige­nous lan­guage be­cause chil­dren might work in an en­vi­ron­ment where not a sin­gle per­son un­der­stood isiXhosa.

The Du­mas lodged their court case at a time when a pol­icy was be­ing re­viewed to in­tro­duce in­dige­nous lan­guages in schools. Since then, Eastern Cape ed­u­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties in­tro­duced isiXhosa and Se­sotho as ad­di­tional first lan­guages in 372 for­mer Model C schools across 22 dis­tricts.

Since 2012, Eastern Cape ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment lan­guage pol­icy man­ager Naledi Mbude­shale has spear­headed the project. At the time, Mbude­shale no­ticed that for­mer Model C schools’ govern­ing bod­ies en­trenched English as the lan­guage of in­struc­tion, learn­ing and teach­ing, and rel­e­gated Afrikaans and isiXhosa to ad­di­tional first lan­guages.

The de­part­ment pro­vided schools there with a par­al­lel op­tion for a pupil to choose be­tween the two, while English was treated as a home lan­guage. Eastern Cape ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son Mal­i­bongwe Mtima said that, af­ter a suc­cess­ful pi­lot project, a de­ci­sion was made to im­ple­ment the changes. TALK TO US What should be done to pro­tect and pro­mote African lan­guages in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word LAN­GUAGE and tell us what you think. In­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

PHOTO: LAU­REN MUL­LI­GAN / FOTO24

CON­FLICTED Dr Nh­lanhla Th­wala says that, be­cause of the coun­try’s colo­nial past, English is still thought of as the only lan­guage that will ben­e­fit young­sters when they en­ter the job mar­ket

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