FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
12 JANUARY 2022, PRETORIA
PanSALB WELCOMES ANNOUNCEMENT ON THE INCREMENTAL INTRODUCTION OF AFRICAN LANGUAGES (IIAL) AND THE EXPANSION OF MOTHER TONGUE-BASED BILINGUAL EDUCATION PROGRAMME BY THE DEPARTMENT OF BASIC EDUCATION
The Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB) welcomes the announcement by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to expand its implementation plans for Mother Tongue-Based Bilingual Education (MTBBE) and the acceleration of the Incremental Introduction of African Languages (IIAL) in schools that previously did not teach indigenous African languages.
“The effective implementation of the department’s plans is especially critical as we enter into the Decade of Indigenous Languages (2022-2032), as declared by UNESCO to highlight the rights of individual to have access to education in their mother tongue and the ability to participation in public life using their language” said PanSALB Chief Executive Officer Lance Schultz.
He further added that the Board would be expanding its research on the Incremental Introduction of African Languages (IIAL) to include all provinces, a pilot of which was conducted in former Model C schools in the Western Cape Province in 2020.
“According to the research conducted by the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), top Western Cape primary schools were lagging behind when it comes to fully integrating indigenous African languages into their curricula, despite this being an official government policy for more than five years now” he added.
It’s widely recognised that increasing access to languages to all learners beyond English and Afrikaans is vital to promoting conceptual understanding which ensures cognitive development in learners, promote social cohesion, economic empowerment, and the preservation of heritage and cultures. The IIAL hopes to facilitate this by introducing learners incrementally to learning an African language from Grade 1 to 12. The ideal is that all non-African home language speakers will able to speak at least one African language at communicative level.
There have been some positives in this regard: the study shows, for instance, that 80% of former Model C schools in the Western Cape (excluding non-respondents) are currently teaching an African language at some level, are equipping learners to communicate with others, and there is a culture of acknowledging another language by others in the schools.
It is clear from the research, however, that former Model C schools are battling to reach the ideals set out by the IIAL.
While most support the policy, there is a lack of resources from the national department, leaving teachers to improvise teaching aids. The data also strongly suggests a lack of trained teachers to teach African languages at second and/or third language levels in the country. Furthermore, there are not enough teachers in former Model C schools in the Western Cape who speak African languages. An additional challenge is that teachers are unlikely to buy into additional training unless they are remunerated for their time.
Outside of the schools themselves, the research also found that most parents prefer that their children be prepared well for Matric and the university curriculum that is offered in English. The general belief is that this will prepare them better for tertiary education and the workplace which is a theoretical misconception about cognitive development.
That said, parents in former Model C schools do embrace the IIAL policy; as long as the African language, at whatever grade, becomes an additional language and not the main means of communication at school.
In order to overcome these obstacles, the research suggests, the department of basic education (DBE) must make IIAL more attractive, get teacher buy-in, and provide sufficient resources and qualified teachers. PanSALB further suggests that the implementation of Mother Tongue-based Bilingual Education will go a long way to ensuring that these indigenous African languages are recognized as languages of science, commerce and sociopolitical domains.
“There is no doubt that more comprehensive use of African languages in schools is something to which we should all aspire, in order to achieve it, however, the DBE needs to lead the way when it comes to buy-in from administrators, teachers, and parents.” said Schultz.