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Language rights versus educational realities — a South African perspective


  • Die Taalsekretariaat
  • Doelstelling

  • N.C. de Wet and G.S. Niemann
    School of Education
    Faculty of the Humanities
    University of the Free State
    P.O. Box 339
    BLOEMFONTEIN
    9300
    Republic of South Africa

    Z.A. Matsela
    Faculty of Education
    National University of Lesotho
    P.O. ROMA 180
    Kingdom of Lesotho

    Abstract

    This article addresses the issue of home language education in the South African context against the background of the ANC-dominated government’s emphasis on the language rights of the learners. Literature and empirical studies show an ambiguity with regard to indigenous African Languages (IALs) as language of learning and teaching (LOLT). Linguists, educationists and staff members of teacher training institutes in the Free State Province and the Department of Education are in favour of the use of IALs as LOLT on educational grounds. Students and the majority of the learners reject the use of IALs as LOLT. Reasons for their resistance against the use of IALs as LOLT are mainly economic and political. This article also reports on recommendations made by staff members, linguists and educationists on how to change the negative perceptions of the majority of South Africans towards the use of IALs as LOLT.

    Language rights versus educational realities — a South African perspective

    A.    Introduction

    Voting in the first democratic elections of the Republic of South Africa (RSA), concluded on 27 April 1994, brought to power a government of national unity under a Constitution with a strong and explicit basis in a rights culture.

    The Constitution of the RSA (RSA 1996a:13) and the South African Schools Act (RSA 1996b:8) acknowledge the right of all learners to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public educational institutions where it is reasonably practicable. The Constitution therefore

      “   recognizes cultural diversity as a valuable national asset, and tasks the government   to promote multilingualism, the development of the [eleven] official languages, and respect for all languages used in the country” (Bengu 1997).

    The government’s education policy conceives language as an integral and necessary aspect of its strategy of building a non-racial nation in South Africa. It is meant to facilitate communication across the barriers of colour, language and region, while simultaneously creating an environment in which respect for languages other than one’s own would be encouraged (Kamwangamula 1997:239).

    The main aims of the Ministry of Education’s policy for language in education are:

  • to promote full participation in society and the economy through equitable and meaningful access to education;
  • to pursue the language policy most supportive of general conceptual growth amongst learners, and hence to establish additive multilingualism as an approach to language in education;
  • to promote and develop all the official languages;
  • to support the teaching and learning of all other languages required by learners or used by communities in South Africa, including languages used for religious purposes, languages that are important for international trade and communication, and South African Sign Language, as well as Alternative and Augmentative Communication;
  • to counter disadvantages resulting from different kinds of mismatches between home languages and languages of learning and teaching; and
  • to develop programmes for the redress of previously disadvantaged languages.
      (Department of Education 1997)

    There is a close link between democracy and language rights (Beukes 1992:48; Nuusbrief van die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns 1993:2; Bosch 1996:4-5). Skutnabb-Kangas’ (1988 in Beukes 1991:97) formulation of children’s linguistic human rights shows a profound awareness of the intrinsic value of language in the life of the individual:

  • Every child should have the right to identify positively with his/her original home language(s) and have his/her identification accepted and respected by others.
  • Every child should have the right to learn the home language(s) fully.
  • Every child should have the right to choose when he/she wants to use the home language(s) in all official situations.

    The South African Constitution, Department of Education’s Language in Education policy document and Bill of Human Rights show an appreciation of the intrinsic value of language in the life of the individual. The ANC-dominated government proclaimed the will to promote the people’s languages in order to empower them economically and politically. This is in line with a resolution of the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures (1930 cited in Kashoki 1993:167):

      A child should receive instruction both in and through his mother tongue and this privilege should not be withheld from the African Child.

    The government’s acknowledgment of the people’s language rights is in line with the widely publicized educational principle that on psychological and pedagogical grounds the home language is the most appropriate medium for imparting the skills of reading and writing, particularly in the first years (Botes 1941:95-96; Kloss 1978:25; Kashoki 1993:167; ADEA Newsletter October-December 1996:6; Mondstuk 1996:2; De Witt, Lessing & Dicker 1998:118-123; Kotz 2000:2; Smuts 2000:1-5). Yet the majority of South Africans opted for English and not their home language as language of learning and teaching (LOLT) after the first four years of schooling (CSD/SWO Bulletin 1993:5; NEPI 1992:13; Webb 1999:69-70). According to Webb (1999:70) the government’s policy of multilinguilasm is clearly failing. Why?

    This article attempts to address the issue of home language education in the South African context against the background of the ANC-dominated government’s emphasis on the language rights of the learners. The prevalent attitudes of student educators, as well as staff members of tertiary education institutions responsible for the training of educators in the Free State and the relevant Department of Education with regard to the use of home language as LOLT in formal education in the RSA will be highlighted. Suggestions made by staff members on what may be done to promote the use of indigenous African languages (IAL) as LOLT will also be given. Some of these suggestions will be discussed against the background of research findings and recommendations made by linguists and educationists. A literature overview on language attitudes in South Africa will also be given.

    B    Attitudes towards IALS as LOLT of the RSA

    1. Attitudes towards IALs as LOLT in the Free State Province

      Background to the study

    Because attitudes play a major role in the way languages are considered and used, an empirical study was undertaken by us in 1997 to ascertain the prevalent attitudes among student educators and staff members of tertiary education institutions responsible for the training of educators, and the Department of Education in the Free State with regard to IALs as LOLT in formal education in the Free State Province in the RSA. Specifically, it was hoped that the research would achieve the following objectives:

  • to find out prevalent attitudes among college and university students, as well as staff members of tertiary education institutions responsible for the training of educators and the Department of Education in the Free State Province with regard to IALs as LOLT in formal education in the RSA;
  • to show reasons for the preferences indicated by staff members; and
  • to provide possible answers (suggestions) by staff members regarding what may be done to promote an effective use of IALs as LOLT.

    To be able to achieve these objectives the following general research questions were posed:

  • Which languages are used as LOLT in pre-school, foundation and intermediate phases in the RSA?
  • What would be (your) language preference for LOLT?
  • What would you advise should be done to improve attitudes towards IALs as LOLT?

    Universities

  • One traditionally white Afrikaans-speaking University, the University of the Free State, in Bloemfontein (Afrikaans-Sotho-Tswana-Xhosa area)
  • One traditionally Black English-speaking University, Vista University, in Bloemfontein (Afrikaans-Sotho-Tswana-Xhosa area).

    Colleges of Education

  • Bloemfontein College of Education (Afrikaans-Sotho-Tswana-Xhosa area)
  • Thaba Nchu College of Education (Sotho-Tswana area).

    The following samples were made by the use of simple random sampling:

        University of the Free State: 5 staff members + 20 students (final year first degree in education)
        Vista University: 7 staff members + 20 students (final year first degree in education)
        Bloemfontein College of Education: 5 staff members + 20 students (final year)
        Thaba Nchu College of Education: 5 staff members + 20 students (final year)
        Free State Department of Education:5 staff members.

    Total: 27 staff members + 80 students

    Instrumentation

  • questionnaire for staff members
  • questionnaire for student educators.

    The questionnaires for the staff members combined structured and open-ended choices in order to give respondents the opportunity to give reasons for their responses. The questionnaires for the student educators contained structured questions.

    Data collection procedure generally consisted of preliminary contacts with staff members in the institutions to be used. This was followed by the development, pre-testing and dispatch of questionnaires to the various destinations. Collected data were then collated and analysed.

      Research findings

    This section gives the research findings. The data are provided in two sets: qualitative data that have been statistically computer-analysed and qualitative data that have been analysed and interpreted descriptively.

    The responses of participants to the question whether the current LOLT policy (use of the home language for the first four grades and thereafter the use of English) is ideal and beneficial to all, or the majority of black African learners, is summarised in Table 1.

    Table 1: Respondents’ indication whether the current LOLT policy is ideal and beneficial to all or the majority of black African learners

    Respondents Yes No Total
    Staff members 9 14 23
    39,13% 60,87%
    Student educators 47 23 70
    67,14% 32,86%

    There is statistically a significant difference between the responses of staff members and student educators with regard to the current LOLT policy in the RSA. Reasons given by staff members for their negative responses:

  • Learners are normally psychologically more at ease with their home language, therefore true insight and application of content are more effective.
  • Some IAL-speaking educators’ and learners’ knowledge of English is generally not sufficient for its use as an optimal and beneficial LOLT.
  • For fast and effective movement across the pre-school, foundation and intermediate phases and for full grounding in the basics, IAL is crucial as LOLT.

    None of the staff members who were in favour of the current LOLT policy gave reasons for their positive responses. Unfortunately the student educators were not asked to give reasons for their positive and/or negative responses.

    The participants in the study were asked whether they prefer that English be given prominence as the only LOLT throughout the South African education system. Their answers are given in the next table.

    Table 2: Respondents’ preferences with regard to English as the only LOLT

    Respondents Yes No Total
    Staff members 7 16 23
    30,43% 69,57%
    Student educators 43 27 70
    61,43% 38,57%

    There is statistically a significant difference between the responses of staff members and student educators with regard to their preferences for English as the only LOLT in the RSA. Unfortunately the student educators were not asked to give reasons for their policy preferences. Only two reasons were given by staff members for their positive responses, namely that English is an international language and that it is a major link-language that everybody needs in the region.

    Reasons given by staff members for their negative responses:

  • Learners generally study and learn best in their own home language, hence use of IAL would be best, especially because learners would be psychologically at ease; therefore optimal learning would be facilitated.
  • IALs should not be made to suffer from discrimination (non-use) and lack of exposure to essential development, as that would not benefit the majority of their users.
  • The RSA constitution has made all main IALs official languages, therefore their use is legal and no other language has a better right to replace them. However, language functions/roles should not be assigned emotionally, but after contemplation and fair research, as well as the education of parents, political leaders and educators on the critical value of IALs as LOLT.

    The participants’ responses to the question whether IALs should be developed to qualify them to become effective LOLT, at least in the pre-school, foundation and intermediate phases, are given in Table 3.

    Table 3: Respondents’ indication whether IALs should be developed as LOLT

    Respondents Yes No Total
    Staff members 21 2 23
    91,30% 8,70%
    Student educators 43 27 70
    61,43% 38,57%

    The overwhelming positive response of the staff members is a reflection of their positive attitude towards IALs as LOLT. The student educators also indicated that they are in favour of the development of IALs as LOLT. This contradicts their negative attitude towards IALs as LOLT (cf. Tables 1 and 2). Unfortunately they were not asked to give reasons for their responses. It is therefore not possible to give an explanation for this contradiction.

    Reasons given by staff members for their positive responses:

  • IALs have a basic development role towards their L1 (i.e. mother-tongue) speakers.
  • Without IAL language development the cultural development of the majority of Africans would also suffer.
  • When the languages (IALs) are used as LOLT, many/most African learners can learn more effectively and optimally and begin to respect their languages and themselves.
  • People should not wait for educational and language development to take place, but should become involved immediately and this will gradually improve attitudes and development skills.

    Reasons given by staff members for their negative responses:

  • Powerful IALs would compete with English and weaken its optimal achievement.
  • Scarce resources should be used on the already strong LOLT (viz. additional language).

    The positive attitude of staff members towards the development of IALs as LOLT is reflected in their responses to a request for suggestions on what could/should be done to improve people’s attitudes towards the use of IALs as LOLT in the pre-school, foundation and intermediate phases. The following suggestions were given by staff members:

  • Educators

        High priority should be placed on the development of language educators (IAL and English), especially at the pre-school, foundation and intermediate phases, through intensive in-service and pre-service approaches.

        Educators who are positive towards and fluent users of both IALs and English, and who can effectively teach both and through both languages, at least at pre-school, foundation and intermediate phases, should be developed.

  • Curricula

    Should be improved to be in line with improved language status and roles and new democratic demands in the following ways:

        Develop materials (even by translation where possible), commit politicians and the private sector (e.g. book publishers) to empower the people through their IALs. Southern African states could have joint instructional material development projects and in this way cut down on costs.

        Organise seminars and workshops to show and convince parents and communities the real value and importance of IALs as LOLT and as media of communication in their regions.

        Train student educators and learners to use IALs to discuss critical real-life issues, concerns and problems, to establish their power and value and to erase negative attitudes towards them.

        Organise IAL dramatic performances for social, intellectual and economic reasons and for community empowerment, as well as a number of national/international cultural festivals. This should be done to revive significant but fading cultural values and to integrate new ones, and to emphasise the importance of cultural arts in improving the communities’ self-image and socio-economic development.

        Organise children’s competitions (e.g. in play-writing and acting, authorship of poetry and short stories, etc.) in the IALs, financed by government and the private sector.

        Teach learners the value of their IALs as factors of development and assist them to contribute to their language’s development (e.g. the coinage of new terminology)

        Develop and introduce special lectures (based on research findings and needs) as a matter of urgency for educators and departmental officials on IALs and their critical necessity for use as LOLT.

        Emphase language use rather than language usage.Teaching IALs through English or Afrikaans merely teaches about the language and does not do enough to teach the language per se. Appropriate curricula should be established and taught in the target IALs by experts of these languages.

        Research the availability of teaching and learning resources on the value of IALs in the education of their speakers.

  • The RSA should give greater prominence to IALs (e.g. Sesotho) in the business world and in the media. IALs were purposely disempowered, and they should now be purposefully empowered.
  • Give parents, educators and government the assurance that their children can learn/acquire high competence in the use of an additional language without the latter being LOLT, if only it is effectively taught and learnt.
  • Familiarise communities with, and convince them about, the interdependence of countries, languages and cultures — politically, socially and economically, especially in Southern Africa.
  • The provincial and national Departments of Education should work hand in hand with Language Academies and other expert bodies to urgently develop appropriate technical terminology, dictionaries and necessities in all areas of study (disciplines) to facilitate learning and communicating through the IALs.
  • Develop individualised programmed instruction materials in the IALs, in the various disciplines, and place them on the market at special community learning centres at reasonable prices.
  • Departments of Education should develop some large schools that provide bilingual instruction programmes and use English and IAL in the teaching of set curricular content on an equal basis.
  • The language as resource approach should encourage multilingualism, especially among public officers. The youth must be encouraged to know more than two regional languages and an international language; and the study of languages should be a co-operative endeavour by all concerned.

    The influence of language attitudes on LOLT is very complex and cannot be addressed adequately by means of one isolated and restricted research study on the attitudes of staff members of tertiary institutions and the Free State Education Department and student educators on LOLT. In the next section an overview of related research will be given.

    1. A literature study on language attitudes

      The reasons given by staff members for their positive responses with regard to IALs as LOLT are validated by the literature study. The findings from the literature study can be listed briefly as follows:

  • The learner’s relations with his/her educators and fellow-learners, in so far as these require mediation by the foreign language medium, will be impoverished (Versfeld 1993:20; Smuts 2000:1).
  • The learner will have no adequate linguistic means of educated self-expression (ADEA Newsletter, October-December 1996:6; Smuts 2000:2).
  • The learner will be handicapped in thinking and in learning to think (Versfeld 1993:20; Lemmer 1995:83; ADEA Newsletter, October-December 1996:6; Kotz 2000:1; Smuts 2000:2).
  • The learner will be able neither to receive nor to impart educative information (Olivier 1993:133; Msimang 1993:200; Lemmer 1995:89; Mondstuk 1996:2; Kotz 2000:1; Smuts 2000:2).
  • Those who have privileged access to LOLT will be at an unfair advantage in relation to the majority. Language policy is used to sustain existing power relations (Tollefson 1991:11; Webb 1992:109; Swanepoel 1995:51; ADEA Newsletter, October-December 1996:2). Several authors (Chick 1992:276; Swanepoel 1995:51; Kamwangamula 1997:244; Heugh 1999:164) warn that English is developing into a class language: knowledge or ignorance of it tends to become a class maker. As in the rest of Africa the language of the former colonial power has remained the language of (political and economic) power (Beukes 1991:44; Tollefson 1991:11; Alexander & Smolicz 1993:5; Swanepoel 1995:51; ADEA Newsletter, October-December 1996:2; Lemmer 1996:17; Heugh 1999:164). Mawasha (1987:111) is of the opinion that knowledge of English is seen by black South Africans as an alternative to physical power: “knowledge replaced the spear.” Kamwangamula (1997:245) refers to “linguistic racism or linguicism”.
  • The cost of failure will be felt in every domain: economic, social and political, as well as in the waste of time and money. Lemmer’s observation (1996:19) that “to many Namibian schoolchildren, to speak English is more important than to pass a school subject” can be made applicable to the South African situation. Research by Macdonald (1990 as cited in Southey 1992:20 and Nkosi 1997:2) into the high failure rate in black students’ fifth year, the year when English becomes the LOLT, shows the inadequate linguistic preparation of the students in the additional language prior to the switch in LOLT. In terms of vocabulary acquired, the vocabulary requirements in English increased by 1 000 % from grade 4 to grade 5 (from approximately 800 to 5 000 words). There is a high incidence of illiteracy and school drop-outs in South Africa. The literacy rate for Africans is 45 % for persons older than 20 years, and the drop-out rate (for 1988) for the first school year in “African” schools is 16,2 % (Webb 1994:255). In a comparative study De Witt et al. (1998:118-122) have found that learners who do not receive home language education show a statistically significant difference between their average chronological age and their reading age. As far as learners who received home language education are concerned, it was found that there was no statistically significant difference between their chronological age and their average reading age. Officials of the Free State Department of Education (as cited in Smith 1999:2) are of the opinion that learners’ lack of English proficiency was the most important reason for the high failure rate in the 1999 grade 12 examination.
  • Mawasha (1987:114) stresses the negative influence of the emphasis on the inherent value of English on the self-image of black South Africans. According to Msimang (as cited in Webb 1992:107) “most [black South Africans] have come to hate their languages.”

    Despite the negative consequences of a foreign language (English) as LOLT and the government’s emphasis on the development of IALs and the learners’ language rights, the majority of learners prefer English as LOLT in the RSA. This preference is a reflection of the student educators’ attitude with regard to LOLT (cf. Tables 1 and 2). A literature study reveals several reasons and/or perceptions for this preference:

  • In the pre-democratic era home language education entailed racially segregated schools. Black learners associate home language education with apartheid education. (Reagan 1985:76; Beukes 1991:93; Beukes 1992:43; Chick 1992:276; Cluver 1992:117-118; Msimang 1992:142; NEPI 1992:27-29; Webb 1992:107, 113-11; Lemmer 1995:83-86; ADEA Newsletter, October-December 1996:2; Kamwangamula 1997:236, 240; Van Louw 1998:3). The negative perception of home language education was strengthened by statements made by National Party (NP) leaders. In 1945 an NP politician, J.N. le Roux, said: “We should not give the natives any academic education. If we do, who is going to do the manual labour in the community?” Dr H.F. Verwoerd said in 1954:”There is no place for the Bantu in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour” (cited by Lenake 1993:56). According to NEPI (1992:27) resistance by blacks to home language education goes back as far as 1905. Blacks felt that better education was available through a European language.
  • Home language education seeks to deny black children access to English, which functions as a lingua franca in the multilingual black communities (Reagan 1985:76; Webb 1992:108; Chick 1992:276; Van Louw 1998:3).
  • English has emerged not only as the language of liberation, but also as the language in which the new democracy has been negotiated since 1990 (Chick 1992:276; Lemmer 1995:83-84).
  • English is the language of wider communication that provides access to the international community (Reagan 1985:76; Beukes 1992:45; Chick 1992:276; NEPI 1992:5; Lemmer 1996:17).
  • Knowledge of English is important for economic empowerment. All white-collar and most blue-collar jobs require knowledge of English (and Afrikaans). Parents want their children to be educated in a language that will give them access to good jobs (Beukes 1991:93; Tollefson 1991:11; Beukes 1992:45, 47; Msimang 1992:142; Cluver 1993:33; Kashoki 1993:169; Schuring 1993:111; Lemmer 1995:84; Lemmer 1996:17; Mondstuk 1996:2; Kamwangamula 1997:242-243, 245; Van Louw 1998:3; Heugh 1999:196).
  • Knowledge of English is important for a positive self-image: “Our sense of identity and self-worth is inextricably bound up with the language(s) we speak” (Versfeld 1993:20).
  • Emphasis on home language education by the National Party government was an attempt to promote ethnicity and thereby prevent black unity (Reagan 1985:76; Cluver 1992:117; Webb 1992:108).
  • IALs are not adequate for educational purposes because they have limited capacity to express technical concepts. Their use in school will create intellectual barriers for their users (Reagan 1985:76; Beukes 1992:45; Bergh 1993:481; Cluver 1993:40, 42; Msimang 1993:200; Ptz 1995a:165; ADEA Newsletter, October-December 1996:2).
  • The lack of appropriate curriculum materials in the IALs (Beukes 1992:45; Bergh 1993:481; Lemmer 1995:92; ADEA Newsletter October-December 1996:2; Kamwangamula 1997:240, 244; Heugh 1999:164).

    The majority of learners in South Africa believe that education through the medium of an IAL is synonymous with apartheid education. These learners believe they will be politically and economically empowered if they are educated through the medium of English.

    The belief that English-medium education is the key to proficiency in English is repudiated by language statistics. Despite the fact that the majority of learners received their education through the medium of English, research in the 1980s (Schuring 1990 as cited in Nuusbrief van die Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns,1993:4) and 1990s (Schuring 1993 in Departement van Nasionale Opvoeding 1995:6) shows that only between 40,42 % and 42 % of South Africans were able to converse in English.

    Large numbers of South Africans are facing the realities of linguistic exclusion from the public life of the country because of their inability to speak English. English is the language of parliament and government offices, IALs are the languages of the masses. Research by Prinsloo (1986 in Cluver 1992:113), as well as Marais, Conradie, Malan and Schuring (1994:47) indicates that more than half of black South Africans cannot speak, read or write English.

    This situation is intolerable for democracy. These people cannot participate in the democratic government — they cannot be appointed as members of national, provincial or local governments. But even worse — they do not even know how their representatives are representing them. According to a spokesperson of the Pan African Language Board (PANSALB) (SABC 20 May 1998) English is used in 85 %, Afrikaans in 10 % and IALs only in 5 % of the debates in Parliament. Because Parliament does not have the necessary translation facilities, Members of Parliament must give prior notice if they want to address Parliament in an IAL or in Afrikaans. It is difficult to understand how a government can hope to govern a country efficiently if half its population does not understand what the government says.

    Webb’s (1992:119) warning against the misuse of language as a tool to politically empower certain language groups at the expense of other groups is not only applicable to the use of English at the expense of IALs. Despite a decision by the local government of Bethlehem, a small Free State town, that Afrikaans and English would be used during local government meetings, the black members of the ANC-dominated council used only Sotho during a meeting in June 1999. According to a newspaper article white members of the council were ridiculed. After the meeting a member of the ANC said the decision to use only Sotho must be seen as an expression of the Sotho speakers’ constitutional rights (De Klerk 1999:1).

    Education through the medium of English and the ability to speak English is not a guarantee of economic empowerment. The incomprehensibility of the belief that knowledge of English is a panacea for poverty is illustrated by findings by the Wharton Econometric Forecasting Association: more than 57 % of the total South African population was poverty-stricken during the period 1993-1996. More than two thirds (68 %) of the country’s black population live in poverty (Die Volksblad, 6 July 1999:7).

    Despite the South African government’s appreciation of the intrinsic value of language in the life of the individual, its will to promote the IALs and acknowledgment of the people’s language rights, as well as research findings that the home language is the most appropriate medium for imparting the skills of reading and writing, the majority of South Africans prefer English and not their home language as LOLT after the first four years of schooling.

    1. Recommendations by linguists, educationists and staff members on how to the promote IALs as LOLT

      Language attitudes are seen as a central element in language policy, language use and language learning in many African states (Ptz 1995b:274). It is therefore essential either to conform to the expressed attitudes of those involved, or to persuade those who express negative attitudes about IALs, of the rightness of home language education; or to seek to remove the causes of the negative attitude towards IALs as LOLT. In an effort to adhere to this goal, recommendations made by staff members with regard to the promotion of IALs as LOLT will be discussed against the background of research findings and recommendations made by linguists and educationists.

      The significance of the plea by staff members that role players must be made aware of the importance of home languages as LOLT is emphasised by Brock-Utne’s (1997:255) observation that parents seem to think that the emphasis on a local language will take time away from the “international” language. Research by Brock-Utne (1997:255) shows that greater emphasis on the local language, and especially having that language as the LOLT, may create better competence in the “international language”.

      In a Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA) at the University of Cape Town (Bloch & Edwards 1998:12, 19) a Xhosa-speaking teacher and an English-speaking teacher explored team teaching strategies to teach reading and writing in both Xhosa and English at a primary school in Wynberg. The project was an attempt to illustrate the necessity of well-trained educators who speak the languages of the children in multilingual classrooms. This project illustrates the importance of the staff members’ recommendation that educators who are positive towards and fluent users of both IALs and English, and who can effectively teach both and through both languages, at least at pre-school, foundation and intermediate phases, should be developed.

      Staff members and Brock-Utne (1997:256) see research as a tool to change perceptions. Brock-Utne (1997:256) recommends that research should be undertaken to compare the competencies of learners who study through their home language with those who study through the medium of English (vide research findings by De Witt et al. 1998:118-122). Brock-Utne (1997:256) advises that studies that are set up to compare the progress of children in home language medium classes with the progress of children in English medium classes have to be well designed so that all the variables, apart from the LOLT, are constant.

      The recommendation of the staff members that educational material should be developed and printed in the IALs may not be realized in the near future because of the unwillingness of publishers to publish in local languages because of the small market involved (ADEA Newsletter, October-December 1996:13; Ridge 1996:31; Bloch & Edwards 1998:16-17) and “the language climate in [the RSA] which   is under the spell of the all pervasive hegemonic status of English” (Bloch & Edwards 1998:17). If we look at numbers per se there are more than enough potential buyers of books in some of the IALs — we must establish a culture of reading in the IALs (cf. Krige et al. 1994:128-148 for the language distribution in the RSA, as well as the number of speakers per IAL). Despite the above-mentioned problems, PANSALB (1999:8) en Desai (1999:182) encourage the development of educational materials and literature in IALs. Webb (1999:81) and Desai (1999:189) are of the opinion that the government should play a leading role in the provision of learning material in the IALs. The importance of learning material in the IALs is stressed by Heugh (1999:165):

        [T]here can be no equality of education in South Africa   until there are materials (text books) in each of the learning areas from Grades 1 — 12 in all 11 official languages, and until matriculation examinations can be written through each of these languages.

      The support given by staff members and student educators for the development of IALs (cf. Table 3) as LOLT, as well as the staff members’ suggestions on how to improve people’s attitudes towards the use of IALs as LOLT, is a reflection of research findings in this regard. Ptz (1995a:165) and NEPI (1992:6) reject the argument that a foreign language (English) must be used as LOLT since IALs are not developed enough in scientific and technical terminology. While Ptz (1995a:166) cites Swahili as an example of how an IAL can acquire a technical and scientific vocabulary, NEPI (1992:6) refers to Afrikaans and Somali. Situations arise in the daily life and experience of people that call for creative linguistic ability and initiative to meet those needs. The government, academics and political leaders must encourage the development of African languages. Matsela (1995:53) believes that IALs must and can be raised “out of the doldrums of self-doubt and over-dependency on foreign languages to a reasonable level of self-confidence and self-reliance   promoting and enhancing their use as ‘high-function’ languages”. An information campaign on the importance of the home language as LOLT is essential (Beukes 1991:98; Brock-Utne 1997:253-254; Desai 1999:182).

      Matsela’s (1995:55) proposal for intra-regional and inter-regional cultural and linguistic collaborative projects concurs with staff members’ recommendation for co-operation between the Southern African states.

      Although it is difficult to change the attitudes of black learners with regard to LOLT (Verhoef 1998:35-50), Ingrid Bruynse (1996:30-31), a lecturer at the Soweto College of Education, was successful in her quest to install pride in her students towards their home languages. Some of the methods she used (Bruynse 1996:30-31) were the same as those recommended by the staff members: train student educators and learners to use IALs to discuss critical real-life issues, concerns and problems, and organise workshops to show them the importance of IALs as media of communication.

      Mawasha (1987:114) and Matsela’s (1995:53-54) recommendation that research into the people’s cultural and linguistic heritage must be encouraged and supported in order to improve re-acceptance and use of IALs and cultural values by all the African people, strengthens a similar recommendation made by staff members. Staff members emphasis that speakers of IAL must never get the impression that their languages have only cultural value. Staff members Heugh (1999:166) and Desai (1999:176) are of the opinion that greater prominence should be given to IALs in the business world and in the media.

      Most of the recommendations made by staff members emphasise the involvement of all the role players. Government, departmental officials, educators, academics, parents, the community and learners must become involved in the development and use of the IALs in all spheres of life.

    2. Conclusion

      The majority of South African learners see the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice as the right to receive education through the medium of English. Heugh (1999:166) and Desai (1999:176) rightly stress that there has been no example in Africa of the successful implementation of a right-based language policy. Rather:

        [T]here have to be instrumental or functional reasons why there is a shift toward harnessing the resources which African languages offer (Heugh 1999:166).

      The guarantee for the use of IALs as LOLT does not lie in language policies, but in the economic and political empowerment of the masses through their home languages.

      The plea for the use of IALs as LOLT does not detract from the importance of proficiency in English. Alexander (PRAESA News, June 1998:6), a strong advocate of IALs as LOLT, has the following to say about the importance of English for South African children:

        English [is] not only   an international language, but it’s a language which for many, many decades still is going to open up job possibilities for anybody who wishes to get a good job in South Africa and we would be disadvantaging our children and future generations if we are to move away from them having to learn or being encouraged to learn English.

      However, this must never be at the expense of home language education. The purpose of basic education in a developing country like South Africa should be to equip learners with the means of contributing firstly to the national life of their country. The educational objective of a country should therefore be to aim at intra-national integration and not at inter-national relations. Children should first be taught to discover themselves as worthy members of a worthy society with language(s) that can be used with a sense of pride. Thereafter they may be taught about people and languages beyond the confines of their society (Du Plessis 1994:323).

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