COMMUNICATIVE: Seventy-Eight percent of Grade 4 pupils in South Africa struggle to read with understanding in their mother tongue.
Cape Town - 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 CPUT’s Mowbray campus on Wednesday.

The panel, which included Xolisa Guzulafrom 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.

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“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 teaching of reading in African languages addressed.

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

O’Carroll 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 we had to resource teachers and help them to teach well in both languages. “There are many issues where teaching reading in African languages is concerned. Some are related to methodology and how reading is being taught, and some concern a lack of resources.

“In many schools, there aren’t enough books in African languages and children don’t get to practice.

“This is an important opportunity to get people who work in different places, who share the same interest together, to talk about the issue. We don’t have the answer, but we’re building towards that.”

@IAmAthinaMay

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