Cape Town 130911- Liyema Katsi is doing a Xhosa exercise. Leiden Avenue Primary in Delft offers IsiXhosa as one of the languages at the school. Picture Cindy waxa.Reporter Ilse/Argus

Cape Town -

Ten Western Cape schools that have volunteered to participate in the Department of Basic Education’s African language pilot project will start teaching Xhosa in Grade 1 from Monday.

Western Cape Education Department spokesman Paddy Attwell said five itinerant teachers would provide the lessons, and training was provided during the first term.

In her budget speech last May, Basic Education MEC Angie Motshekga stated that a new policy, which would mandate the learning of an African language in all schools, would be implemented this year.

Her department said “full implementation” would be preceded by a pilot in Grade 1 in selected schools in each province in 2014.

According to the Department of Basic Education, the pilot project targeted “previously marginalised African languages in schools where an African language is presently not offered”.

Attwell said the participating schools had all opted to extend the school day to accommodate the lessons.

They would add about two hours a week or about 24 minutes a day.

The department was providing workbooks for the project.

Meanwhile, the University of the Western Cape was expected to start offering a new degree from next year, which would aim to increase the number of African language teachers in the foundation phase.

Dr Vuyokazi Nomlomo, who is co-ordinating the project at the university, said African languages did not really have status in education.

She said the Department of Higher Education and Training had identified a need to increase the number of institutions offering Bachelor of Education degrees for the foundation phase from 13 to 18.

Nomlomo said many pupils who had an African language as their home language had to make the transition to English as a medium of instruction after Grade 3.

“Their performance is negatively affected by this. Top schools are usually the ones where learners are taught in their home language.”

She said the department’s African languages plan could help improve the status of these languages, but there were few young African language teachers in the foundation phase – those who were in the system were close to retirement age.

The new degree would help to close this gap.

The programme would also aim to improve students’ academic literacy skills.

“When they come to university they don’t really have strong literacy skills in their home language.

“We hope to strengthen this.”

Nomlomo said the plan was to start with an intake of 50 students.

[email protected]

Cape Argus