Newspaper clipping – The Mercury – 17 March 2010

Grade 4s get help making switch to English

Teachers in Umlazi have welcomed a private initiative to give Grade 4 pupils extra lessons in numeracy, literacy and life skills, with the aim of helping them make a smooth transition from being taught in their home languages to being taught in English.

The Education Department requires all pupils to be taught in their mother tongue from grades R to 3 (foundation phase). But from grade 4, they are expected to be taught mainly in English. However many pupils struggle to make the change.

Kimon Phitidis, of Social Innovations, an organization that runs the Pep Student Prince Academies, said one of the biggest challenges facing the education sector was to improve pupils’ core performance in literacy and numeracy.

The academy is run in the form of two-hour extra lessons that take place three times a week. Teachers are provided with all the necessary resources and the children get a meal.
“The problems experienced are often attributed to the poor transition from mother tongue to English at grade 4 level. And this is where many pupils, who find it difficult to adapt to the changeover, fall behind and leave school prematurely,” said Phitidis.

In 2008, former Education MEC, Ina Cronje said a large number of South African pupils in foundation and intermediate phases at school – including KwaZulu-Natal – could not read, write or count. She said the department acknowledged that there was a serious problem with literacy and numeracy in the country and that the department’s research indicated that pupils could not read and write.

Language and mathematics results in grades 3 and 6 were of concern. Cronje quoted statistics from international studies showed pupils’ performance in literacy, numeracy, mathematics and science was “always bleak”.

Nesi Sishi, a teacher who manages the student academy at Umlazi’s Vumokhuhle Junior Primary, said:
“When we heard of this academy, we knew it was a solution to our problems. Our children are already showing a difference.”
The academy started work at Vumokhuhle in February.

Teachers from other schools in Umlazi said they hoped similar projects would be launched at their schools.