Cape Town - The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has announced that 730 Grade 1 pupils will be part of its pilot project this year where Xhosa will be taught as a third additional language.

The Basic Education Department plans to introduce a third African language to the school curriculum incrementally from next year in Grade 1. To help with the feasibility test, it will pilot the project at 10 schools in each province.

WCED spokesman Paddy Attwell said the department was finalising the appointment of five teachers to travel between 10 schools. He said each teacher would be responsible for two or three schools to provide lessons.

The provincial department was tasked with identifying schools which would take part in the pilot. Last year it had invited schools in urban districts to apply to be part of the study and had asked district directors for their input on which schools should be chosen.

In the pilot, which is set to be launched next month, 10 city schools would teach Xhosa for the first time in the Grade 1 class. Attwell said the schools would determine how they would accommodate the additional lessons and added that its introduction could mean an extension of the school day.

“The WCED discussed plans with the 10 schools late last year.

“Officials will meet the schools again on Friday, January 17, for further discussions,” he said.

“The schools and the department are on track to implement the pilot, according to the project plan. Lessons are due to start as soon as possible after the appointment of the teachers, scheduled for February 1,” Attwell said.

The schools to participate in the pilot are:

* Zonnebloem Boys Primary

* Montevideo Primary

* Cecil Road Primary

* Good Hope Seminary Junior

* Vorentoe Primary

* Belhar Primary

* Simon’s Town Primary

* West End Primary

* Square Hill Primary

* Kraaifontein AME Primary

Schools have a collective group of Grade 1 classes ranging between 24 to 189 pupils.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA president Basil Manuel said during a meeting with the department, it had welcomed the idea of African languages being recognised.

But he said the organisation had also raised concerns on whether a third language was not “overkill” and the pilot with the Grade 1 class might be an “unrealistic measuring tool”.

“Our concern is that it cannot be used as a yardstick to measure the success of the whole policy.

“The foundation phase is different from other phases.

“We as Naptosa don’t see any problems with the pilot project in Grade 1 in terms of teachers (being) stretched a little but we are concerned that there would be problems that arise in the secondary phase, where there would be a need for far more staffing,” Manuel said.

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