African language could be graduation requirement

Every university student in South Africa could be required to learn one African language as condition for graduating, Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande said on Tuesday.

An advisory panel had been tasked with looking into the issue, Nzimande said in Pretoria at the launch of the teacher education and development plan for the next 15 years.

“One of the things we are looking into is … to what extent should we consider that every university student in South Africa must at least learn one African language as a condition for graduating,” he said.

This was “very, very critical”.

Speaking in isiZulu, Nzimande said: “We can’t be expected to learn English and Afrikaans, yet they don’t learn our languages”.


He said the issue of the development and teaching of African languages in universities was something he was taking up as a special ministerial project.

The advisory panel would look at how to strengthen university the teaching and expansion of African languages, which was on a serious decline.

The launch of the strategic planning framework for teachers aims to improve the quality of teachers and teaching in the country in line with calls over the years by teacher unions.

The plan identifies the availability of qualified and capable African language foundation phase teachers as particularly problematic.

Nzimande said this had “severe implications” for the development of early numeracy and literacy, which was the foundation for all future learning.

“African language learners in the poor, rural context are mostly severely impacted,” he said.

A European Union-supported programme to strengthen foundation teacher education was already being implemented by the higher and basic education departments.

It would increase the number of universities involved in foundation phase teacher education from 18 in 2008 to 20 by 2014, said Nzimande. — Sapa

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