Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said the department’s plans to implement Kiswahili in SA schools are underway. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Tuesday said the department’s plans to implement Kiswahili in South African schools are underway and that the department identified pilot schools and have started with the process.

“South Africa has embraced Kiswahili which is an official African Union language so there’s also lots of excitement that South Africa will finally embrace Kiswahili language. I am even talking with the minister of Arts and Culture to say perhaps they should be able to provide that for people outside school because we will not be able to do it as the department of basic education [DBE],” she said during a pre-budget vote media briefing in Parliament.

Motshekga is expected to table her department’s budget vote speech on Tuesday afternoon. 

DBE director-general, Mathanzima Mweli said that this year the department was only doing the piloting intending to get ready for the implementation next year and that the pilot was happening mainly in Gauteng. 

“We are looking at what comes out of the pilot to help us to plan for implementation next year in other schools,” he said. 

The minister said although there were still issues around the implementation of Kiswahili in South Africa, the country would have to deal with them as language issues and not as educational issues. 

“I know people who speak English very well but they don’t necessarily meet the best people. So the key thing in education is cognitive development and it’s best served in the language you are comfortable in. If most African homes now speak English, it’s fine in the homes if that has become their home language, its fine for them because it will assist them cognitively,” Motshekga said, adding that speaking and learning in mother tongue helped in thinking well and proper.

“So I don’t agree with that assertion that any mother tongue instruction is not good. There are issues about language in South Africa which we have to deal with as language issues and not as educational issues.”

According to the Constitution, Motshekga said conditions shall be created for the development and promotion of all the 11 official languages of South Africa and for their equal use and enjoyment, further adding that the majority of emergent bilingual learners in South Africa, speak and learn African languages, which have different linguistic structures to English and that this impacted on the language transitioning within schools.

"I am delighted to announce that the council of education ministers overwhelmingly agreed to incrementally introduce Kiswahili in our schools. There is a high level of enthusiasm about this. Kenya and Tanzania have committed to assist with the training of educators and the development of appropriate learning and teaching support materials in Kiswahili," she said.

African News Agency (ANA)