South African Pupils to Learn in First Language During Early School Years Under New Plan

Eric Naki, Winnipeg Free Press, July 7, 2010

South African students will be able to learn in their first language during early school years under a new government plan–a move that has received a universal welcome in the country.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced the change Tuesday. She said pupils will have the option of learning in their mother language in their first three years of schooling. Children are currently taught either in English or Afrikaans, both languages inherited from the eras of colonialism and apartheid.

Education experts have been calling for the change for years, as South Africa has nine other official languages. {snip}

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Motshekga said the current outcomes based education system, known as OBE and introduced in 1998 by the democratic government to replace the apartheid education, is blamed for the high school failure rate, and has been scrapped.

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School pass rates had dropped over the last decade from a 60 per cent average to about 40 per cent at rural areas and black township schools, mainly due to poor learning resources and teaching by underqualified educators.

The legacy of apartheid has left a deep divide in South Africa’s education system.

Quality schooling is still largely reserved for whites or rich black people while pupils at the hundreds of schools in poor areas suffer under badly trained teachers with little equipment.

The majority of black schools have no libraries, laboratories, computer centres and have a historic shortage of classrooms and teachers for mathematics and science.

However, the properly resourced former white schools, classified as Model C, have been doing very well with many of them achieving the pass rates of 100 per cent.

The opposition Democratic Alliance says it hopes the changes will be the beginning of a long-needed process to overhaul an education system that was failing pupils.

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