The Department of Science and Technology – National Research Foundation Centre in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (CIKS) recently hosted a colloquium on the importance of Mother Tongue Language in Science and Technology Curriculum for Science and Technology student teachers.
The Colloquium was hosted in collaboration with UKZN’s School of Education, the National Department of Basic Education, and the eThekwini Municipal Institute of Learning (MILE).
The Director of the DST-NRF Centre in IKS at UKZN, Professor Hassan Kaya noted the link between colonisation and language, by emphasising the ‘disjuncture between life at home and in the classroom,’ for the majority of African learners, who speak a mother tongue language at home, and a foreign language at school. He also outlined the cultural and ecological specificity of knowledge.
Delivering the opening address, the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Head of Department of Education, Dr Enock Vusumuzi Nzama expressed his confidence that the Colloquium will positively impact on learners. Nzama said that learners may encounter problems at school, not because they are not ‘academically gifted’, but because they read in one language, interpret in another and express themselves in another language.
UKZN Director of Language Planning, Dr Langa Khumalo, indicated that ‘language is at the heart of human existence’, and emphasised that learners have to have a good grounding in their mother tongue before learning another language.
Professor Nontokozo Mashiya from UKZN’s School of Education explored the benefits of mother tongue teaching in the early years. She said that learners often have to battle with the language they are being taught in first, and then have to deal with content. As a result, they are sometimes seen as ‘remedial’.
Professor GM Nkondo from the Freedom Park Trust posed a number of questions including: ‘Do people in different languages live in different worlds?’ Nkondo suggested the need to disarm colonial power in the classroom.
UKZN’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Professor Deresh Ramjugernath, looked at the new strategic plan of the University and emphasised the importance of ‘knowledge generation for the continent that addresses the challenges that we have on the continent.’
The highlights from the colloquium included a visit by the Department of Science and Technology’s Parliamentary Portfolio committee and a look at the use of puppetry in teaching IKS by Professors J. de Beer from North West University and S. Britts from the University of Limpopo and their students.