Mother tongue magic at work

Vuk'uzenzele - - General -

A LIT­ER­ACY project that pro­motes home lan­guage read­ing has started a new chap­ter of learn­ing in the Eastern Cape.

UNICEF South Africa and the Nel­son Man­dela In­sti­tute for Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment (NMIRD) are work­ing magic in a ru­ral part of South Africa.

They launched the Bilin­gual In­ter­ac­tive Dif­fer­en­ti­ated Class­rooms pro­gramme in the Eastern Cape in 2007. Also known as the ‘magic class­room col­lec­tive’, the un­der­ly­ing premise of this ini­tia­tive is that teach­ing should be en­gag­ing, di­verse and fully grounded in its lo­cal con­text. In the case of the Eastern Cape, this means pro­mot­ing learn­ing in Xhosa, the ma­jor­ity lan­guage in the prov­ince.

Be­tween 2013 and 2017, UNICEF South Africa con­trib­uted about R14 mil­lion to the NMIRD. Ac­cord­ing to UNICEF there has been an im­prove­ment at both the nu­mer­acy and lit­er­acy lev­els of Grade R learn­ers since the in­cep­tion of the pro­gramme over a decade ago.

Fifty kilo­me­tres from the town of Bizana in ru­ral Eastern Cape, lies Dlangezwa Se­nior Pri­mary School. The school has 178 learn­ers from Grade R to Grade 7and the NMIRD has worked with this school since 2009 with a fo­cus on Grades R to 3 learn­ers.

Prin­ci­pal Za­mux­olo Mdatya cred­ited it with help­ing him and his teach­ing staff re­alise that the foun­da­tion phase of teach­ing is crit­i­cal to a child’s de­vel­op­ment.

Six-year old Tho­bela Bhoy­oyo is an in­spir­ing ex­am­ple of a learner who has ben­e­fit­ted from the pro­gramme. This Grade R learner is a con­fi­dent reader who, ac­cord­ing to his teach­ers, un­der­stands the text at a level above that of most Grade 6 learn­ers.

The Bilin­gual In­ter­ac­tive Dif­fer­en­ti­ated Class­rooms pro­gramme made books the fo­cus of his learn­ing and im­proved his read­ing abil­ity. Bhoyo said he loves see­ing the words in his home lan­guage of Xhosa. He added that he wants to be a teacher when he grows up and re­counted proudly how much his friends like it when he reads to them.

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