It will add to a list of non-official languages on offer to learners. The Minister justified the decision as follows, “Kiswahili is a Bantu language with lexical and linguistic similarities with many African languages spoken in the continent”.

While the addition of an additional language is to be welcomed, the irony is surely not lost on most people who justifiably might ask Minister Motshekga about government’s commitment to the constitutionally-defined list of official languages, the majority of which are conspicuously absent from the learning and teaching environment, from foundation phase to tertiary level. This reality directly undermines the promotion of mother tongue literacy with a causal effect on the poor education outcomes in South Africa.

Diversifying the language menu detracts and will surely misplace scarce resources from the critical task of a commitment to both introducing and improving instruction in local languages, ranging from teacher training, to translating material and sourcing indigenous texts for use in classrooms. Lest the Minister forget, Khoi, San and sign language instruction deserve attention and fiscal allocations too.

It would behove the Minister of Basic Education to turn her attention to addressing the needs at home in the first instance and to prioritise a founding provision in the Constitution in respect of the promotion of indigenous languages. The Minister must give urgent attention to the promotion of mother tongue education and literacy, with additional languages a welcome addition lest generations to come confess, in the words of American cartoonist, Matt Groening, “I know all those words, but that sentence makes no sense to me”.

By Ms Zohra Dawood, Director

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