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Compulsory indigenous language plan delayed

Durban - The roll-out of the national Incremental Introduction of African Languages (IIAL) has been delayed by a year to allow education departments to iron out any issues with the implementation.

A decision was taken in 2013 to introduce a compulsory indigenous language to the school curriculum, piloted at Grade 1 level in 251 select schools across the country.

The drive behind the African Languages policy was to create a more cohesive society, breaking down language barriers across race and culture lines.

The three-language plan was initially to be implemented last year, however this was changed to a pilot project with 15 schools in the uMlazi, Pinetown and Umgungundlovu school districts volunteering for the project.

National roll-out of the policy, which would be incrementally introduced at all schools, was set for this year, however, it was decided in the latter part of last year that another pilot year was needed.

Spokesman for the provincial department of education, Muzi Mahlambi, said the department was still sorting out logistics for the project.

“The relevant educators who are proficient in the language must be sourced and this affects funding.”

The curriculum would also need to be assessed and the subject worked into it.

He said the pilot would continue at the 15 schools at grades 1 and 2 levels.

“In a meeting held last year with the schools’ stakeholders it was indicated that everyone was happy with the programme and that it was beneficial to the learners and community.

“The project has such a positive effect on those learning another language and is fostering national integration.”

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) was working closely with the Department of Higher Education and Training to ensure higher education institutions have appropriate teacher training programmes for African languages for grades 1 to 9.

It also plans to offer the Funza Lushaka Bursary to potential students with a National Senior Certificate (NSC) to train as specialist African language teachers.

Spokesman for the DBE, Elijah Mhlanga, said feedback had shown strong support for the programme.

“The IIAL programme has been well received and supported by parents, pupils, teachers and principals,” Mhlanga said.

“Learners were able to perform rhymes and songs and also read simple texts in the new language in a period of eight to 10 weeks. Parents were unanimous in their support for the continuation of the IIAL beyond Grade 1.”

Tim Gordon, chief executive of the national governing body foundation, said the extra year for the pilot was welcomed.

“Every organisation that had input on this project said it shouldn’t be rushed, rather take two years to do it so that staff and textbooks could be found.”

He said the first pilot year had varying results across the country as it had been implemented differently in different provinces.

“In the Western Cape 10 schools were selected and the education department hired teachers who worked on an itinerant basis so one teacher would teach at different schools on different days. This seems to have worked effectively, whereas in the Eastern Cape it was piloted at 116 schools and although they said it worked fine, we never saw credible reports of progress.”

Gordon said besides staffing and textbooks, there were other practical issues that needed to be considered.

“The further you go with the project, it does get trickier. What do you do, for example, if somebody has been learning Zulu for seven years and then moves to another province where Sotho is being taught. It’s a compulsory subject but unlike other subjects, languages aren’t something you can just pick up.”

Gordon said because it was a compulsory subject it meant matric pupils would eventually write eight subjects with the consensus currently being that seven was already too many.

“There’s also the question of whether it should be an academic or communicative subject. It’s a good project, which is why it’s encouraging that the roll-out was not half-baked.”

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