IndigenousEducation for a Better South Africa

South Africa is a diversified country which is popular knownas a rainbow nation with over 49-million people and a wide variety of cultures, languages and religious beliefs. According to the mid-2010 estimates from Statistics South Africa, the country's population stands at 49.9-million, up from the census 2001 count of 44.8-million. Africans are in the majority, making up 79.4% of the population, while white people make up 9.2%, the coloured population 8.8%, and the Indian/Asian population 2.6%. 11 Official Languages South Africa is a diverse and multilingual nation. Its constitution recognises 11 official languages.According to the 2001 census, isiZulu is the most common home language which is spoken by nearly a quarter of the population. It is followed by isiXhosa at 17.6%, Afrikaans at 13.3%, Sepedi at 9.4%, and English and Setswana each at 8.2% as per bellow table: SOUTH AFRICAN LANGUAGES 2001 Language Number of speakers* % of total Afrikaans 5 983 420 13.35% English 3 673 206 8.2% IsiNdebele 711 825 1.59% IsiXhosa 7 907 149 17.64% IsiZulu 10 677 315 23.82% Sepedi (North Sotho) 4 208 974 9.39% Sesotho 3 555 192 7.93% Setswana 3 677 010 8.2% SiSwati 1 194 433 2.66% Tshivenda 1 021 761 2.28% Xitsonga 1 992 201 4.44% Other 217 291 0.48% TOTAL 44 819 777 100%
Source: Stats SA -Census 2001

Most South Africans are multilingual and able to speak more than one language. English and Afrikaans-speaking people tend not to have much ability in indigenous langua ges, but are fairly fluent in each other's language (Meaning only Afrikaans and English). A large number of South Africans speak English, which is omnipresent in official and commercial public life. Language Impact on Education The South African Constitution guarantees learners the right to receive education in the language of their choice. Currently most of the South African Educational institutions from all levels of educationuses English as the medium of instruction in which content is delivered. Indigenous languages are taught as a subject mostly in the schools situated in townships and rural areas. The indigenous language subject is taught until matric as a compulsory language and thereafter dies unless you choose Education Studies with focus to language. Most current research suggests that learners entering school are able to learn best through their mother-tongue, and that a second language (such as English) is more easily acquired if the learner already has a firm grasp of his/her home language.Learners perform badly in their studies mostly because of lack of understanding of the language (English) used to deliver content. Before they can understand and absorb the content of the subject, they need to understand the language first, which delays and/or sometimes destruct their learning.

This realities proves beyond reasonable doubt that many African Learners and Students can perform well if their mother-tongue was used as a medium of instruction just like Afrikaans and English Learners who have proven to be the best performers as they have institutions which delivers educational content in their own mother-tongue. Although English remains an important international and business language, this must not be in the expense of the indigenous languages. English is a language which can be learnt like any other language which we learn through communication. It can further be a compulsory subject for all levels of education so that apart from students learning in their indigenous languages, they may equally know how to express themselves in English. Indigenous Language in the Global World Somecountries especially in Europe and other countries in Africahave made strides towards addressing it. I once had an opportunity to do my IT National Diploma project in GermanyLoerrach University of Co-operative Education in 2005/2006. They are delivery every subject content in German. IT Programming, Networks, Biology, Mathematics, Tourism, Economics, Accounting, Business Management and etc. are all delivered in German English is just a subject which is . compulsory for every student to learn. Some people believes and criticises that if we learn content in our indigenous languages this will disadvantage us in doing business against the background that Germany as an example given in this article is a developed country which is highly successful in business and even its government officials including the Chancellor Angela Merkel barely speaks English in international relations meetings and conferences but still manages to disseminate the message to the world through interpreters. The National Youth Development Agency together with the ANC Youth League hosted a World Festival for Youth and Students last year December in 2010. Many delegates from different countries were using their own indigenous languages in representing the Youth and Students from their respective countries and we had technological devices which managed to interpret those languages to the language we best understand. The same happens during African Union, United Nations and many other international gatherings. Indigenous Education is Possible in SA too Given the statistics as presented in this article from Statistics South Africa, it is very clear that majority of South Africans are Africans with about 79.4% of population. About 23% of this population speaks isiZulu as their home language followed by isiXhosa and other languages.These populations are also dominant in different provinces like isiZulu is dominant in K wa-Zulu Natal, isiXhosa Eastern Cape, Setswana North West, Sesotho Free State, Sepedi, Tshivenda & Xitsonga Limpopo and etc. This provides the basis in which indigenous language can be realised in our s educational system. For started why can t we have English and isiZulu as medium of instruction to deliver content in the University of Zululand?isiXhosa and English in one of the Universities in the Eastern Cape. Sesotho and English in Central University of Technology situated in Free State, Sepedi in University of the North Turfloop Campus, Tshivenda and Xitsonga in University of Venda, Setswana in one of the Campuses of North West University especially Mafikeng Campus. Like former RAU and currently we have Stellenbosch University having English and Afrikaans as medium of instruction this included other institutions which print their question papers with both English and Afrikaans. It is my conviction based on number of studies made and the commitment which the Education Department has that South Africa has a high potential to can implement indigenous education which is qualitative in building a better South Africa. "AkukwaziukubayithikuphelaekuthiwasifundeisiNgisinesiBhunubakwethu, kodwaezethuizilimiabanyebangazifundi" says Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr. Blade Nzimande

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