PRAESA trains multilingual trainers

16 September 2002
THE UCT-based "Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa" (PRAESA) recently launched its pilot Training for Trainers' Course: Multilingual Education in the SADC Region, with MEC for Education for the Western Cape, Andre Gaum, on hand to welcome the programme's first intake.

Offered as a postgraduate diploma that can lead to a Masters degree, the one-year programme is aimed at those who either "train, monitor, advise, supervise or mentor" teachers who work in multilingual classroom settings in the SADC region, explains PRAESA Director, Professor Neville Alexander. The focus of the programme is on the introduction of a mother tongue-based bilingual education system in southern Africa, he adds.

The first part of the course, which consisted of four weeks of lectures at UCT, was divided into four modules. These focused on Language; Culture and Society; Educational Language Policy Development and Implementation; Young Children's Language and Literacy Learning; and Developing and Adapting Learning Support Materials.

Twenty-four participants finished the first section of the programme in August. Of the 24, nine were from the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), representing the department's Education Management Development Centres (EMDC). During their "absence", the participants will work on and hand in an array of assignments and projects. They are due to return to UCT for a two-week assessment period in May 2003.

In addition to the PRAESA lecturers, the programme also called on educators from around SADC, as well as Dr Brigitta Busch of the University of Vienna, who has done work on multi-lingual education in Eastern Europe. The Ford Foundation, together with the Royal Netherlands Embassy and the WCED, provided funding for the course.

The programme makes a timely advent in the Western Cape, following as it does on a recent decision of the WCED to offer all seven years of primary school education in the respective mother tongues, with a second language taught at the same time. Gaum also intends to make the learning of an African language compulsory.

Alexander serves on the task team responsible for the implementation of this new mother tongue-based system.

"The WCED decision is essentially about basing the education system on the mother tongue of the learner, rather than on a foreign or second language, which is what English is to most children," he says. "We want to unleash the creative potential, the spontaneity and initiative of all our learners, and to realise the claim that we have a learner-centred education system.

"And there's nothing more learner-centred than the language the child knows."

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