‘Improve indigenous languages first’

WITH the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga issuing a circular to the Department of Education authorities recently informing it about a plan to introduce Mandarin in public schools next year, teacher unions say the department has a huge challenge in developing indigenous languages before adding another language.

Although the Chinese language will be taught as a non-official language from Grade 4 to Grade 9 in public schools next year, relevant stakeholders are calling for an extensive improvement of indigenous languages in schools, before Mandarin is introduced.

Provincial secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union­ (Sadtu) Nomarashiya Caluza said the department cannot add another language, while the 11 official languages have not yet been properly addressed.

“South Africa was colonised to destroy the culture of the country including language. Introducing Mandarin is a form of new colonisation. In this day and age, we can’t be introduced to new languages where we lack in our own languages.

“School governing bodies must rise and object to this proposal.

“It is part of commercialising education because of certain gadgets that are promised to be given to pupils.”

President of National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), Basil Manuel­, said while Mandarin is an important business language, introducing it will be overloading the current curriculum.

“The focus should be on indigenous languages because we haven’t introduced them properly. There is room for the language however, it should be just an additional language.”

National Teachers’ Union deputy president Allan Thompson said they support the call, provided it is done on a smaller scale with the target­ on certain schools.

“We feel that certain schools should be identified and monitored. If it’s on a large scale, there will be problems and we are tired of the trial-and-error method.

“We support the call because we believe that education should allow us to interact with people across all groups, without making anyone feel discriminated against. This will also allow people to participate towards the economy of the country. Any form of language is empowerment.”

CEO of Pan South African Language Board Mpho Monareng disputing the introduction of the language, but they are concerned that it might overshadow the national agenda of incalculating African languages.

“Mandarin was actually for business purposes. There is nothing wrong with developing our own languages for business purposes,” he said.

Clinical psychologist Bev Killan said adding an additional language will distract pupils from getting to understand the basic language.

“There are children who are struggling with languages, reading and writing. Adding a new language will increase the number of pupils with learning disabilities and there aren’t enough facilities to cater for those disabilities.

“Why not focus on getting the basics right first, before implementing another language.”