New book promotes bilingual teaching in EC rural schools

    In a passionate plea for the inclusion of mother-tongue teaching based on a decade of research, University of Fort Hare professors Brian Ramadiro and Kimberley Porteus have pin-pointed both problems and solutions in foundation phase education in rural Eastern Cape schools.

    The 150-page Foundation Phase Matters: Language and Learning in South African Rural Classrooms, summarises the joint research project on teaching grades R to 3 conducted by the authors. It was launched on Wednesday at the Miriam Makeba Art Centre in East London.

    CRUCIAL MATTERS: Authors of ‘Foundation Phase Matters’, Dr Kim Porteus and Dr Brian Ramadiro, at the book launch last week with University of Fort Hare vice-chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu, centre Picture: ARETHA LINDEN

    Beginning in 2009, the two scholars worked in classrooms with 80 rural foundation phase teachers who taught 2500 pupils. The researchers wanted to find out if it was possible to teach in isiXhosa-English bilingual classrooms.

    The team spent 18 months teaching in a rural Grade 3 classroom gathering first-hand experience to come up with a well-informed intervention programme.

    They realised that in most rural schools, teachers were trying to teach in a language that not only the children struggled with, but in many instances the teachers themselves were not that comfortable in. They found that despite learning taking place, it was not enough to meet the demands of the curriculum.

    “It is important to note we are not saying English should be replaced with isiXhosa. We are promoting bilingual teaching,” Porteus said. The book was an invitation to discuss plans for a flagship bilingual isiXhosa-English Bachelor of Education initiative at UFH, she added.

    Ramadiro said their aim was to find solutions to social and linguistic issues facing teachers of foundation phase education in rural African schools.

    The launch follows a front page report in the Dispatch last month quoting education MEC Mandla Makupula revealing a provincial pass rate crisis in Grade 1. He said one in every five Grade 1 pupils fell below the pass mark.

    Ramadiro and Porteus were working with the Nelson Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development Foundation. —


    1. I truly thank the Lord for the book that highlights the need for bilingual education. It is a pity that the intervention is still limited to primary school level whhereas it’s necessary for all levels of education in the Eastern Cape, including high school and tertiary levels. Thumbs up for bilingual education. We pray for improved political will for speedy implementation at all levels