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No support for Nama language

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The Nama language is being taught from Grade R to 10 in Kuboes and Riemvasmaak since the beginning of the year

ENCOURAGING: Deputy Minister of Arts and Culture Maggie Sotyu visited the !Xhunkhwesa Combined School in Platfontein recently. Picture: Danie van der Lith

MEMBERS of the Nama Khoi Language Board, which visited the city recently to develop a conventional method of spelling the Khoekoe (Nama) language, have cited the lack of support in making it a sustainable subject at the two schools in the Northern Cape where it has been introduced as an indigenous language.

The Nama language is being taught from Grade R to 10 in Kuboes and Riemvasmaak since the beginning of the year.

Chairperson of the Nama Khoi Language Board, Willem Damara, pointed out that the Nama language classes were only 15 minutes long.

“There is not much that can be taught in that short space of time, other than a short introduction, which means progression is slow. There is also no subject adviser to oversee and provide guidance to the Nama educators. Training and support of teachers are also lacking.”

He added that there was also no budget for the salaries of the Nama educators.

Damara added that textbooks, dictionaries and booklets from Namibia had to be utilised as there was no set syllabus or curriculum for South African pupils.

“The books will have to be adapted to suit South African schools. It is not something that can simply be translated from Afrikaans or English, it is a language on its own.

“Nama should be taught up to Grade 12. Although Nama is not an official language, municipalities are obliged to serve us in our language.”

Spokesperson for the Department of Education, Geoffrey van der Merwe, explained that the department was funding the salaries of Nama Khoi language educators.

“We are paying the salaries of two Grade R teachers, who must allocate one hour per week to teach Nama. The Karas region in Namibia donated learning material for Grade Rs and are providing us with the continuous training of teachers.”

He stated that the classes were being phased in, from Grade R for 20 minutes at a time, as an extracurricular subject, through song, dance and poetry.

“Grade R pupils are between the ages of five to seven years and their attention span usually lasts for about 20 minutes.

“The Minister of Basic Education has granted the Northern Cape Department of Education approval for the phasing in of the Nama language for communication purposes at Riemvasmaak Primary School and Johan Hein Primary School in Kuboes, as an extramural activity from Grade R.

“Both these schools are situated in communities where Nama is still being spoken very prominently.”

Van der Merwe pointed out that the pilot project was implemented at 12 schools in the Northern Cape from 2000 to 2010.

He indicated that because the Nama language was not recognised as an official language in South Africa yet, it did not form part of the National Curriculum Framework being implemented in schools.

Van der Merwe stated that a twinning agreement was signed between the Northern Cape provincial government and the Namibian government to develop and preserve the rich heritage, culture and language of the Nama.

“The Karas region is providing us with the necessary support in terms of learning and teaching support, as well as capacity training for teachers, as Nama is taught in Namibia as a first language.

“The battle at hand for the Nama Khoi Language Board is the official status of the Nama language in South Africa. The Northern Cape is the only province in the country that has introduce the Nama language in our schools. We can also confirm that the implementation of Nama is progressing very well in both schools.”