UWC to launch Centre for African Language Teaching thanks to R10m grant
This will develop a generation of teachers better able to educate pupils in isiXhosa.
South Africa has 11 national languages, but nine of these are not used effectively as a medium of instruction in schools from Grade 4, leaving many pupils at a disadvantage when they start reading and writing in an unfamiliar language.
To address this challenge, UWC will establish the CALT with a special focus on isiXhosa.
“Indigenous languages should be at the centre of education transformation in South Africa,” said Nomlomo.
“More than 70% of the population comprises speakers of the nine African languages, and research indicates that pupils and students learn better in their home languages.
"But while our country’s Language-in-Education Policy promotes multilingual education, there is little implementation on the ground - due in large part to lack of teacher training.”
Nomlomo holds a PhD in language and literacy studies, and is an accomplished professor of language education and teacher education.
UWC-CALT, supported by the Department of Higher Education and Training, will contribute to the development of isiXhosa as a language of teaching and learning in primary schools.
IsiXhosa is the first language of 8.2 million South Africans, but there is limited expertise in the teaching of early literacy in isiXhosa and other African languages.
“At the moment, from Grade 4 onwards, 80% of our children are learning through what sometimes feels like a foreign language: English,” said Dr Robyn Tyler, a researcher at UWC’s Centre for Multilingualism and Diversities Research.
“If we want to move beyond reciting pieces of knowledge parrot-fashion and enable real, critical engagement with content, our teachers must include African languages in their teaching.”
UWC’s centre will strengthen the teaching of isiXhosa literacy in the BEd Foundation Phase which prepares students to teach from Grade R to 3.
It will also contribute to the development of isiXhosa literacy materials to be used in the BEd programmes of all the institutions that will participate in the CALT project.
It also aims to develop knowledge and practice standards in isiXhosa, and design a framework for the teaching of reading and writing literacy in isiXhosa in the BEd (Foundation Phase) curricula of the participating institutions.
UWC-CALT will also partner with three universities in the Eastern Cape.
UWC vice-chancellor Professor Vivienne Lawack said: “While our country struggles with the challenges of Covid-19, we must not forget that there are other challenges on the horizon.
“To face those head-on, we will need to educate new generations of leaders - and one way to do that lies in mother tongue education and the ability of our teachers to teach African languages.”