The South African Constitution promotes multilingualism while acknowledging the maintenance of home languages. Meanwhile the language-in-education policy (Department of National Education, 1994) declares that every learner has the right to receive education in the language that he/she understands best where this is practicable. According to programme requirements of the Intermediate Phase (Grades 4 6), two official languages must be selected by a learner of which one should be the home language and the other one used as a first additional language. One of these languages will serve as the language of learning (Department of Basic Education: Programme and Promotion Requirements, 2011) This study outlined the challenges that Grade 4 teachers in the monolingual rural area of Niani face when teaching through English. This case study was designed as a qualitative research underpinned by Krashen's theory of second language acquisition (1982), which underlines the importance of interaction.
The literature reviewed showed how teachers developed strategies to cope when a second language is used as the medium of instruction in monolingual societies. The participants of the study include six Grade 4 teachers who are mother tongue speakers of Tshivenda and two curriculum advisors of Niani in Limpopo province. Data were collected via classroom observations and interviews in order to establish the challenges teachers face when they switch from using Tshivenda to English once the learners move to Grade 4 and how these teachers cope. The findings indicate that teachers in rural monolingual communities in Niani find it difficult to meet the curriculum demands in terms of the medium of instruction. Grade 3 learners move to Grade 4 with little English vocabulary and this makes teaching problematic. Teachers spend most of their time translating the lessons into Tshivenda, a strategy which further limits both teachers' and learners' English exposure. Teachers too' were found not to be sufficiently proficient in English. The significance of the study relates to the educational issues of rural schools that are ignored by officialdom, including the fact that teachers are not adequately prepared to teach in English. In addition, learners transitioning to the medium of English are not sufficiently supported. Hence, policies need revision and interventions to address linguistic shortcomings of teachers and learners ought to be designed and implemented if English remains the medium of instruction.