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Members of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education heard that 27% of schools nationally are implementing the Incremental Introduction of African Languages (IIAL) in 2017 despite challenges, some of which are formidable that are still standing in the way of full implementation of the programme in 2018 and beyond.

The Minister of Basic Education Ms Angie Motshekga and senior officials of the Department of Basic Education appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education yesterday at Parliament to brief the Committee on, among other things, progress achieved so far on the implementation of the Incremental Introduction of African languages (IIAL) and on progress on the plans to make History a compulsory subject in the South African schools.

Briefing the Committee, Ms Motshekga said she was encouraged with the progress made in the implementation of IIAL at public schools. Furthermore, Ms Motshekga said she was encouraged by the fact that the programme ensures that all public schools offer at least one indigenous African language to learners.

According to Ms Motshekga, although there are challenges in some provinces, those challenges are related to funding and something else but not opposition to the IIAL.

Ms Motshekga told the Committee that the IIAL programme flows from the National Development Plan which states that “since a few non-African South Africans speak any African language, a second challenge is to encourage those for whom an African language is not a mother tongue to develop at least a conversational competence in one of these languages. Both government and society should promote and celebrate this form of multilingualism. Knowing each other’s languages can play a profound role in promoting understanding and developing social cohesion”.

"We want to ensure that all learners offer at least one previously marginalized official African language as part of the curriculum requirement and to strengthen the use of African languages at home language level," said Ms Motshekga.

According to the Director-General of the Department of Basic Education, Mr Mweli Mathanzima who presented a progress report to the Committee, IIAL was piloted in Grades 1 and 2 in 264 public schools across all provinces in 2014 and 2015. He said in 2016 the programme was implemented in 842 public schools and there are currently 973 schools that are implementing the programme.

Mr Mathanzima told the Committee that to achieve more progress on the implementation of the IIAL, the Council of Education Ministers approved a recommendation of the Ministers Management Meeting that all public schools that are not offering a previously marginalised official African language should implement the IIAL in 2018 and all 3 558 schools should implement the IIAL in Grade 1 in 2018.

The objectives of IIAL include strengthening the use of African languages at home language level, improving proficiency in and utility of the previously marginalised African languages and expanding opportunities for the development of African languages to help preserve heritage and cultures.

The Committee heard that the Department of Basic Education has provided the necessary support to all the implementing schools. The support included the provisioning of teachers, teacher orientation, provisioning of teaching and learning support materials, monitoring and support of the implantation of the IIAL and vigorious advocacy campaign.

On future implementation plans, the Committee heard that the IIAL will be implemented incrementally in all the targeted schools in Grade 1 in 2018 and in subsequent years until Grade 12 in 2029. Mr Mathanzima told the Committee that the implementation will be staggered per phase.

On the plans to make history a compulsory subject in the South African schools, the Committee heard that there is a Ministerial Task Team (MTT) which is in place and whose terms of reference include conducting research on how best to implement the introduction of compulsory history in Further Education and Training (FET) schools, strengthen content of history in the FET band and review content in the General Education and Training band.

The MTT, according to Mr Mathanzima, will compile a final report and present it to the Minister of Basic Education and Senior Management of the department by December 2017.

Some members of the Committee are still expressing opposition to the introduction of history as a compulsory subject and argue that its importance doesn’t make a convincing reason for it to be introduced as a compulsory subject.

The Chairperson of the Committee, Ms Nomalungelo Gina, stressed the importance of content in the history that is going to be made compulsory to learners. She said propaganda should be avoided in that history. “It is very important to know what history is going to be taught to learners. We need to be clear on the content,” she said.

By Mava Lukani

28 June 2017