• Eastern Cape Rising Sun

IsiXhosa prioritised in EC schools

The Department of Education in the province hosted a Mandla Makupula Language Indaba to engage on policies on mother tongue and bi-lingual mediums of instructions in the province towards the broad perspective of decolonisation.


Over 2 000 schools in the province already teach Mathematics and Science in isiXhosa, a move that has seen great improvements in the results of the trial examinations for matric this year. The Department has been spearheading this project for ten years considering that isiXhosa is spoken by 8 million mother-tongue speakers in South Africa.


“Our Constitution does not say children must be taught in English. 25 years later we still deny ourselves the right to use our own indigenous languages the way we want. Our schooling system is not able to produce people that understand the dynamic and diverse nature of our society,” said Fundile Gade, MEC for Education.


Gade passionately articulated the need to ensure that we have a proper appreciation and understanding of what language, culture and religion mean in education. He believes it would be of great assistance to draw lessons from nations that have managed to develop using their mother tongue. Singapore, China and Germany have proven to be the most developed.


“We must influence the policy direction of this country around the use of the mother tongue in education. Vice-Chancellors must align policies of higher education to those of basic education, so they can receive learners and carry on with the good work,” he suggested.

The idea is that in three years, Grade 12 learners will be taught in their preferred mother tongue across all subjects. During admission into schools, children will no longer be interviewed in English to measure their readiness, particularly in former model c schools.


“Brilliance and talent must not be equated to English, that is an unscientific conclusion. IsiXhosa must be made available as a choice for parents to decide. We all spent years pretending that they all prefer English,” argues Gade.


Liso Mthwana, a Grade 12 learner expressed enthusiasm about the Indaba. “It’s an important step towards assisting us to perform better in our final examinations. Often, we have knowledge but we cannot understand the question because it is written in a type of English we are not used to,” she enthused.


Chief Director Statutory Advisory and Protocol Services, Naledi Mbude argues that there is a misconception that Maths and Science cannot be translated into isiXhosa. “It is laughable because Science has already been interpreted into English from Latin and Greek and the Romans. We wanted to start with the most difficult subjects so that our kids can perform better,” said Mbude.


The Eastern Cape is the only province that provides Xhosa workbooks and teacher support material. The target is to have the same resources for isiXhosa that are available for teaching in English.


“We need parents and family members to start speaking more isiXhosa with children at home, this is where they will learn best. This will also ensure that children love the language, are proud of it and will champion the cause further,” she assured.

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