Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga on Tuesday said the department’s plans to implement Kiswahili in South African schools are underway and that the department identified pilot schools and have started with the process.

“South Africa has embraced Kiswahili which is an official African Union language so there’s also lots of excitement that South Africa will finally embrace Kiswahili language. I am even talking with the minister of arts and culture to say perhaps they should be able to provide that for people outside school because we will not be able to do it as the department of basic education [DBE],” she said during a pre-budget vote media briefing in Parliament.

Motshekga is expected to table her department’s budget vote speech on Tuesday afternoon. 

DBE director-general, Mathanzima Mweli said that this year the department was only doing the piloting intending to get ready for the implementation next year and that the pilot was happening mainly in Gauteng. 

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“We are looking at what comes out of the pilot to help us to plan for implementation next year in other schools,” he said. 

The minister said although there were still issues about Kiswahili in South Africa, the country would have to deal with them as language issues and not as educational issues. 

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

“I know people who speak English very well but they don’t necessarily meet the best people. So the key thing in education is cognitive development and it’s best served in the language you are comfortable in. If most African homes now speak English, it’s fine in the homes if that has become their home language, its fine for them because it will assist them cognitively,” Motshekga said, adding that speaking and learning in mother tongue helped in thinking well and proper,” she said.

“So I don’t agree with that assertion that any mother tongue instruction is not good. There are issues about language in South Africa which we have to deal with as language issues and not as educational issues.”

-ANA; editing by Devereaux Morkel