A critical microethnographic investigation of the role of news-time in the acquisition of literacy in pre-democratic South Africa.
This thesis focuses on the form and content of contributions of young children during news-time, a recurrent literacy event in pre-primary and junior primary schools in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Using the methods of Critical Discourse Analysis and both Traditional and Critical Ethnography, the researcher infers the emic categories (or norms) which guide the participants' conduct at news-time. The study reveals, inter alia, how uniform the teachers, norms for news-time behaviour are, and how assiduously they promote them. It also reveals how incompatible, in most instances, the teachers' norms are with those of their pupils; outlines the ideological strategies teachers use to discourage/silence literacy practices they disapprove of; and draws attention to the hurt feelings, self-doubt and alienation on the part of pupils that these strategies foster. On the basis of such findings the researcher argues that news-time literacy as reflected in the teachers' core norms, embeds and helps to consolidate asymmetrical teacher-pupil (and expert-other) power relations; the hegemony of expository literacy (for which newstime literacy is a fore-runner); and the hegemony of various Anglo-, Western, middle-class values and interests. Consistent with the call of critical ethnographers for ethnographies that focus on the influence of macro-contextual factors on social conduct, he suggests that central features of the South African education system under apartheid (such as the eschewal of diversity, belief in prescriptive rules of correctness, authoritarianism, exclusivism, et al) are compatible with and perhaps help further to explain the norms which the teachers promote during news-time. Finally, the researcher explores the implications as well as an application of this research for the teaching/learning of literacy in early education in the "new" - democratic - South Africa. He calls for consciousness-raising on the part of teachers and teacher-trainers regarding the form and function of news-time, in the context of a broad understanding of literacy, ideology and power. He argues that teachers need to acquire richer analytical and interpretative abilities than are evinced in his study, and suggests both content and a method by which they may be developed. He also argues for awareness-raising of alternative pedagogical options, which he outlines. Lastly, he argues that teachers need to acquire multilingual and multicultural proficiencies. As regards applications, the researcher makes two proposals for an emancipatory micro-literacy policy at the preprimary and junior primary levels of schooling. At the heart of the first are four considerations, two of which involve "literacy as teaching the 'cultures of power' and literacy as practice in acknowledging and fostering diversity" (Pennycook 1996:164). The remaining two relate to compatibility with the spirit of the National Language Policy and parity with the "orientations" that underlie the National Language Policy. The second, and more modest of these two proposals, recognises the likelihood, on the one hand, of resistance on the part of those with vested interests in the status quo, and the influence, on the other, of other potentially significant contextual factors.