The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) intends to take the Department of Education to the High Court so it would implement its call that all pupils should have the right to write their examinations in their mother tongue.
“As Cosas, we are working with the CRL Rights Commission and the solution we came to is to take the Department to the high court,” said the Congress’ president, John Macheke during an SABC interview.
He added that the ANCYL is also on board in the organisation’s drive to ensure that this becomes policy and is implemented by the department.
Macheke said the matter will be escalated to a high court because of the complexity of changing policy at a departmental level.
He said the department’s efforts of promoting indigenous languages by implementing the Introduction of African Languages policy in 2014, which states children can study one African language, does not address the assessment issue.
“We are meeting with the Department of Education and the CRL Rights Commission this week and we will engage the Department of Education and then we will take this issue to the high court,” he said.
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Macheke said considering that section 29(2) of the Constitution states that every pupil has the right to be educated in the language of their choice then that choice should include the language used for assessments.
“We have been using English in our schools as a language of assessment but that does not mean I cannot write my question paper in Tswana, I cannot write my question paper in Xhosa,” Macheke said during an SABC interview.
He said this could be applied to subjects like Life Sciences and Geography whose learning objectives are content focused rather than on the language.
“This has been affecting our learners and it is high time we take it to the upper levels,” Macheke said.
He added that the call made by the organisation is based on research which shows that a language barrier makes it difficult for pupils to grasp the content of a subject.
Macheke added that another hurdle is that from pre-school till grade 7 pupils are taught their mother tongues, which becomes a challenge for pupils whose first language is not English when they reach grade 8 where they are taught English.
“But you understand SeTswana better than English. Now when your question paper comes in English before you answer the question paper you have to translate English into [your mother tongue],” he said.
He said this becomes problematic because understanding the question becomes time-consuming which at times forces some pupils t skip certain questions because of comprehension challenges.
He added that in schools where an indigenous language is the first language, teachers go to the extent of explaining the content in the vernacular, which exacerbates the problem because the pupil would most likely remember that specific explanation in the language it was delivered in.