Pupils strug­gle to read mother tongue

Daily News - - NEWS - ATHINA MAY

SEVENTY-EIGHT per­cent of Grade 4 pupils in South Africa strug­gle to read with un­der­stand­ing in their mother tongue. Whether this is due to the way African lan­guages are taught in the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem was dis­cussed among ed­u­ca­tion ex­perts at the Cape Penin­sula Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy’s Mow­bray cam­pus yes­ter­day.

The panel, which in­cluded Xolisa Guzula from UCT, Dr Shel­ley O’Car­roll from WordWorks, Brian Ra­madiro of Fort Hare Univer­sity and El­iz­a­beth Pre­to­rius from Unisa, were brought to­gether by the Ed­u­ca­tion Fish Tank and Funda Wande, who hosted the talk to dis­cuss bilin­gual ed­u­ca­tion at schools.

Guzula, an ed­u­ca­tion lec­turer, said there was a de­bate about the teach­ing of read­ing in African lan­guages. Guzula said her main con­cern was how English-speak­ing peo­ple were lead­ing the de­bate on how to teach African lan­guages to African chil­dren.

“Teachers tend to teach de­cod­ing in Grade 1-3 and for­get to teach read­ing for mean­ing which chil­dren are ex­pected to know in Grade 4.

“We teach them how to sound let­ters of the al­pha­bet, but they may not un­der­stand the mean­ing of the words.

“Some be­lieve that with African lan­guages chil­dren do not need books and don’t have to be im­mersed in literature. We think they can teach cod­ing and literature si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

“It’s not an ei­ther/or, they must read in African lan­guages.” O’Car­roll agreed with Guzula on hav­ing the teach­ing of read­ing in African lan­guages ad­dressed.

O’Car­roll said teachers were get­ting in the habit of get­ting pupils to re­cite read­ing, which sounded good, but had no depth and un­der­stand­ing.

She said there was a need for in­vest­ment in re­sources and books for chil­dren in African lan­guages, so that chil­dren had op­por­tu­ni­ties brought to them in their own home language.

She also said teachers needed to be re­sourced and helped to teach well in both lan­guages. “There are many is­sues where teach­ing read­ing in African lan­guages is con­cerned. Some is re­lated to method­ol­ogy and how read­ing is be­ing taught and some is a lack of re­sources.

“In many schools, there aren’t enough books in African lan­guages and chil­dren don’t get to prac­tise. This is an im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity to get peo­ple who work in dif­fer­ent places, who share the same in­ter­ests, to talk about the is­sue.

“We don’t have the an­swer, but we’re build­ing to­wards that.”

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