The use of critical literacy theories as an approach to teaching as a home language to learners at a Durban secondary school utilising community newspapers.
As a former journalist and a columnist for the very first community newspaper in Chatsworth: the Chatsworth SUN, which is no longer in circulation, and a teacher of English Home Language at secondary school level for twenty years, my research project combines an interest in print media with my efforts to promote a pedagogy in which issues of inclusion, access, and identity are addressed. The impetus for this study was a research assignment I conducted in 2002 for the "Introduction to Research Methods" module of this degree. I carried out a survey at my school that aimed at ascertaining the media habits among a class of Grade 10 learners. The survey revealed important information regarding 'newspaper reading habits' . Almost every learner read the weekly community newspapers or 'knock and drop' publications circulated free of charge to almost every household in Chatsworth, south of Durban, where the majority of learners, of Indian descent, resided. In some cases these were the only publications that learners read. In 2003, I therefore decided to involve the same learners in a research project for the dissertation component of the degree. The Project would allow the learners to become active and critical participants in the media culture that is omnipresent in their lives. Interesting perspectives on issues of identity, ethnicity, and gender would emerge from this heterogeneous sample, which included five African learners, in the deconstruction of community newspapers that targeted Indian readers. Community newspapers, by virtue of their convenience of access, are potentially very influential publications and the research project provided the opportunity to assess and change attitudes to the discourses that arise from reading such newspapers. Particularly important are the ideologies, hegemonies and issues of power found in the language of these community newspapers, as well as the technological and production processes involved. Hence, the main objective of my study was to narrow the divide that exists between educational experience and the real world. I demonstrate this in the thesis through the interactive application of Critical Literacy theories to printed texts by learners who deconstruct, critique, and subvert taken-for-granted assumptions that result from submissive interpretation ofmedia like the community newspapers.