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Different tribes bind to one language by the education system by Takato Tontsi

A vernacular is the native language of a specific population, as opposed to a language of wider communication that is a second language or foreign language to a population, such as a national language. In South Africa we have English as a national language, and all other 10 official languages as vernaculars.

Most schools in townships tend to teach one or two vernaculars and an official language which is English. Marikana has only two schools. One is a combined and the other is a primary school. These schools give lessons of Setswana as a vernac. Marikana is well known as a mining place. It is one of those places diverse with different tribes of people because of the mines. Parents send their children to school expecting them to be taught their mother tongue. It is even good for a child to be able to be fluent with their mother tongue. But all the children growing up and attending local schools are bind to be taught Setswana without a choice.

Visiting the Marikana primary school and finding that there are 7 different tribes in one class, in the grade one. How does it sit with all the parents sending their children to schools that are not going to give those lessons of their desired language?

I conducted three interviews on the 28 May 2013.


  • Asking the first parent (Mrs. Mpungwane) onto why her child goes to school that teaches English only in town? she said “I do not have any choice because my child started grade one in Mpumalanga and used to be taught siSwati and English, but schools around here only teach Setswana, which is not fair on all children that are not the Batswana’s”
  • Is it really not fair or people demand too much?

Mrs. Mpungwane continues “I did not really want to send my child to town; some people might think I have money, but that’s not the truth, I cannot let my child struggle with a language he is not familiar with, he would rather go to a school where he learns English only.” Mrs. Mpungwane has a point; children would really get confused if they had to change languages they are taught at school especially at an early age.


  • I spoke to the second parent (Betty Letswalo) on what is her intake on the matter and how her child also gets affected?

During our chat she told me “before I came to live in Marikana I lived with my children in Soweto, and I am telling you that in Pimville the location I lived at I am not sure how many schools were there, but for sure I knew that we had plenty schools for different tribes especially primary schools, high schools were not as many because they would teach different languages in one school. Now my child is forced to learn Setswana as her second language, now she will lose Sesotho like she never learnt it.”


  • Couldn’t the department of education look into this matter or couldn’t the department have attended to this matter long ago because Marikana has been developing for over years?

Speaking to Mrs. Mautsane a pre-school teacher in Marikana primary, she said “the department knows about this and has from January the school has a teacher that specialises in isiXhosa, next year there will be an isiXhosa teacher in grade one, and in 2015 there will be isiXhosa in grade 2, it will go just like that until the leaner’s who started with it are in grade 12.” Now the department of education is doing something with this problem how many were affected, and how many are still going to be affected now that only isiXhosa is being done at the school?

The problem with this is that many children who started school somewhere else tend to fail when they get here. Other parents are forced to take their children to town schools and spend more than they wanted to. The other thing is children now grow up not learning their mother tongue. It is clear that they will not know much about their culture. Good future is good roots. The only way is to hire more teachers to come to Marikana schools who can specialise in other languages that dominate. How long is it going to take before the department make development? And how many would have been forced to have Setswana on their matric certificates?