Durban - Teachers and pupils at 15 schools across KwaZulu-Natal not only face the pressure of ensuring a smooth first day of school, but bear the responsibility of making or breaking the Department of Education’s third African language policy on Wednesday.

The three-language plan – which was postponed in August – was scheduled for a “full-scale implementation” this year. But soon afterwards it was announced that a pilot project consisting of 15 schools from the Umlazi, Pinetown and Umgungundlovu schooling districts would determine whether the project would be rolled out next year.

“The schools volunteered for this and they are generally schools that perform well. Therefore we do not see a problem with the administration of the project,” said Department of Education HOD Nkosinathi Sishi.

He said the department was ready to help the schools test the policy.

The policy was billed as an attempt to promote multilingualism and foster social cohesion. At the time educationists warned that, practically, it could not be done, given the timetable and shortage of teachers.

“The DA fully supports the department on this,” said the DA spokesman on education, Tom Stokes, adding that his concern that there would not be enough time to implement the plan.

The head of the Governing Body Foundation, Tim Gordon, said that to rush the project into schools would be “damaging, to say the least”, and the department should be commended for taking concerns on the three-language policy into account.

* On the department’s reported financial difficulties involving money owed to private education training institute Sants, Sishi said the department’s legal team had “no intention” of not fulfilling the obligation to pay out more than 1 000 student bursaries.

“We supplied bursaries to students and that is the issue. Sants is a new player in the field and we need to make sure they are of high quality and the qualifications students receive will be recognised,” said Sishi.

The Mercury