Showing posts from April, 2011

my mother mother's tongue

For most of my life Mama and I have been two peas in a pod. However, being the youngest of her three daughters has not been without its tensions. From a young age I understood that Mama and I lived in different worlds; hers a world of oppression and resistance and mine freedom and choices . Thanks to my formal education and socialisation, language became the obvious marker that we were always growing apart. I was educated in a former Model C, public girls school where English was the only language of instruction. The shallow isiXhosa lessons once a week did not recognise the language that came naturally to me. Attending a new school also meant moving to the leafy suburbs where white children asked their parents for permission to play with black children. The obvious danger of a complete immersion into English meant that by being proficient in the language and code at school, my mother tongue was in jeopardy.

The alarm bells went off for Mama while I was reading a paperback cartoon ver…

baby steps and being literate

I have a six year old nephew who started Grade 1 this year. For various and obvious reasons, my sister decided to send him to a school where English is the language of teaching and learning in spite of the fact that his mother tongue is isiXhosa. Even though this is the case, English was never a foreign language for him because he was born into a bilingual home environment. He’s been exposed to both isiXhosa and English through the media,our adult conversation and his small collection of books that he has. When I asked him what he was doing at school and he told me he was “building words”. I couldn’t help but notice the hesitation in his voice as he struggled to express this concept in isiXhosa.

Evidence of learning at school is already coming through because recently we had our first argument about language. It was an argument about the letter C: he knows c for cat, and c for CNA and he couldn’t understand how the same letter could have different sounds. We ended up reading a book th…

"I don't want to be here" says the Grade 1 learner

The last two weeks of school I spent in a classroom observing and building rapport with the teachers I have been doing my research with. The few days that I sat in the classroom I quickly learned that I was not going to be a distant observer but a participant in the life of the classroom. So I learned all the names (which was easy because they are pasted onto their desks) and interacted with the learners when the teacher stepped out the classroom as a pseudo-teaching assistant.

I won't lament how this school is an epitomy of what education is like in South Africa. For a township school however, it is generally functional.The amount of time spent on learning dwindles to about 4 hours because school only starts after 8, meal time and play time is an hour when combined and learning is often disturbed by administration for the teacher or out of the blue visits from parents.

So last week I was left with the class of 31 learners while the teacher had to sort out schedules (also known as r…