While schooling or formal education has become the main locus of education
and training in South Africa, little recognition is given to local African
languages in the curriculum. The trend is that the so-called former Model C
schools, which use English as Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT),
teach English and Afrikaans as subjects and usually give no significant
recognition to the mother-tongues of African learners. It is only in township
and rural schools, widely considered as dysfunctional, that African languages
may be used as LoLT during the first three years and are taught at meaningful levels for native speakers. Thus, the education system maintains,
albeit in a subdued manner, the apartheid-era partition of the society and
creates a context prone to the continued exclusion of the marginalised.
I argue that making African languages compulsory at the school-end
exam would help level the playing fields between black learners and their
white counterparts. Furthermore, township and rural schools would be
recognised as having some currency to trade, which would contribute in turn
to improving their own image. Banking on the linguistic capital of black
learners in ‘black’ schools could lead to the phasing-in of symmetrical
exchanges between learners from both ends of the educational divide,
through bussing and school pairing.
Such initiatives would not only contribute to bridging the
educational gap and fighting social exclusion, but would also go a long way
towards promoting reciprocal knowledge and mutual understanding between
youth across racial and social barriers, thus paving the way for a more caring
and united society.