‘Restore status of languages’
Durban - There is a need for leaders within the community to join forces and convince the education authorities about the need to restore the status of Indian languages in the school curriculum.
Indian languages must be taught during normal school hours, instead of after school.
This was the gist of the address by Dr Arumugam "AM" Pillay, the guest speaker at the annual reunion of pioneer residents of Chatsworth and their descendants hosted by the Chatsworth Vernacular School Institute on Sunday.
Pillay stressed that Indian languages needed to be spoken to keep them alive.
The institute was formed in 1938 by a group of Chatsworth banana and vegetable farmers to run classes in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and Urdu, and it is concerned there is minimal teaching of Indian languages taking place.
Pillay, a retired subject adviser in Indian languages with the Department of Education, said when the former House of Delegates carried out a survey, 91% of parents were in favour of Indian languages being offered in schools.
Thus 8000 pupils enrolled to study Indian languages when they were first offered in 1984.
“By 1996, the enrolment for Indian languages increased to 63000 learners - with 3000 taking Gujarati, 5000 Telugu, 15000 Urdu, 19000 Hindi and 21000 opting to study Tamil.
It was smooth sailing and Indian languages flourished until drastic changes occurred,” said Pillay.
Strictures in the form of Outcomes Based Education, the National Curriculum Statement and, more recently, the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) dealt a cruel blow to the continued existence of Indian languages in the curriculum.
Pillay said these policies did not allow inclusion of Indian languages in the syllabus, thus relegating their status.
With the introduction of CAPS, every subject in each grade has a single, comprehensive and concise policy document that provides details on what teachers need to teach and assess on a grade-by-grade and subject-by-subject basis.
Pillay said Indian languages were not catered for under CAPS.
“Sadly, and badly, the register for Indian languages now reflects an estimated 19500 learners. Also a major factor in the reduction of numbers is the expulsion of Indian languages from being taught during normal school time to after-school hours,” he said, adding without the study of mother tongue languages, the understanding and appreciation of great literary works would be lost to future generations.
“It is disturbing and disheartening that at the end of 2016, only 177 learners sat for the matric exams in Indian languages.”
On the question of keeping Indian languages alive, Pillay said minority language maintenance was a non-starter if there was no speaking in the mother tongue.
“A language becomes extinct if it is not used for ordinary communication. Young, and even older Indians in South Africa, no longer communicate in their vernacular. Only a spoken language has a chance of survival. So how do we save Indian languages from becoming extinct in South Africa? The answer is simple: use the spoken form of the languages more often.
“Children must be encouraged at home to speak one of the Indian languages. After prayer services at temples, time must be set aside to promote the speaking of Indian languages. It is only by learning Indian languages that songs and dances will become more meaningful,” he said.
Chatsworth businessman, Mogambaram Narainsamy "MN" Reddy, was honoured at this year’s function for distinguished service to the community.
Reddy trained as a teacher and served the Education Department for 15 years. He ventured into business as proprietor of Reddy’s Corner House, Silverglen.
Reddy has actively promoted the civic, religious and cultural affairs of the community.
Four teachers who taught at the Bayview School established by the institute were honoured at this year’s reunion function.
They were Faith Maureen Chellan, Neela Maharaj, Rawhotarie Naidoo and Daliah Naidoo.