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South African schools to drop Zulu and Xhosa languages, stirring debate

Fungai Maboreke | 1/25/2012, 10:50 a.m.
South African schools to drop Zulu and Xhosa languages, stirring debate

Jan. 24 (GIN) - South African Model C primary schools have been quietly removing Zulu and Xhosa languages from their curriculum leaving English and Afrikaans, popularly known as "the oppressors' language" during the apartheid era as the medium of Instruction.

The move was described as "tragic" by academics even though Afrikaans appears to be the next dominant idiom after English.

Officially, students should be taught in their mother tongue from Grades 1 to 3, but a survey by the Sunday Times newspaper found this was not happening. In fact, by the time they got to 12th year, most pupils were opting for Afrikaans as their first additional language after English with 68,455 choosing Afrikaans, 10,943 choosing Zulu and 1,547 choosing Xhosa.

A letter from Mntomuhle Khawula of the Inkatha Freedom Party and an education advisor, was particularly critical: "Exclusion of African languages (isiZulu and isiXhosa) in some former Model C Primary schools is systematically discriminating and singling out certain racial groups."

"We cannot sideline our African languages because not only is it an insult to those who speak it but it's reviving the struggle of languages like it happened many years ago with Bantu education, we need to find a curriculum that will accommodate each and every language."

Bobby Soobrayan, director of basic education, countered: "It is misleading to say that because of government policy, schools are scrapping African languages in favor of Afrikaans..." However, he added, "Because school governing bodies determine the language policy, some schools choose to offer Afrikaans as the first additional language."

Soobrayan insisted: "What we want to see is every pupil being competent in an African language when they leave school.