An investigation into teacher-elicited Zulu mother-tongue peer-tutoring by Zulu-speaking pupils in an English only classroom at Southlands Secondary School.
The end of apartheid in South Africa in 1994 triggered unprecedented changes in the country's institutions including the school. In the city of Durban one such change was the influx of Zulu-speaking pupils into previously "Indian" and "White" schools in their quest to learn through the medium of English only. The majority of these students are less proficient in English and therefore find it difficult to participate in classroom activities. Drawing on questionnaires, interviews and personal observations of classroom interaction, this study reports on one teaching method, peer tutoring, that some teachers at Southlands Secondary use to attend to the communicative needs of these students. In particular, the study reports on how peer-tutoring works at this school, what its benefits are to the learners, what the learners' attitudes are toward this teaching method, and what its implications are for the English-only argument. The study shows that contrary to the English-only argument, using the students' native tongue, Zulu, in an English-only classroom can assist rather than impede ESL learning. Peer tutoring not only contributes to the academic development of Zulu-speaking pupils and fosters friendships and meaningful contacts between Zulu-speaking and Indian pupils, but it also provides the latter with opportunities to learn Zulu and to appreciate the language as a resource in an English-only environment. It is hoped that this study, which is very much pilot in nature, will help highlight issues that can become the subject of more detailed studies in this field.