Emerging bilingualism in rural secondary schools in KwaZulu-Natal : the impact of educational policies on learners and their communities.
Appalraju, Dhalialutchmee Padayachee.
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It was as Head of Department of Languages in a rural high school in Southern KwaZulu-Natal, and as an L1 English educator in a primarily Zulu-speaking environment that I first realised the extent to which language is not neutral, and became curious about learners’ language choices in their community. My observation of rural parents sending learners to English multicultural schools made me similarly realise the extent to which language carries power. Language also carries ideologies and values, and can empower or disempower learners. At the same time, language is contextually and culturally embedded; and any attempt to explain language choice and language usage has to take a multiplicity of factors into account. This thesis addresses the topic of emerging bilingualism in three rural schools and school communities in Southern KwaZulu-Natal. In these primarily Zuluspeaking communities, an increasing dominance of English is resulting in bilingualism in what were formerly primarily monolingual communities. In particular it would appear that the bilingual education prescribed by education authorities is causally implicated in this emerging bilingualism. As a result, rural communities, like urban communities, are becoming melting pots where different languages, cultures and value systems are interwoven to satisfy economic, political, social and cultural needs. The South African Constitution speaks of multiculturalism and multilingualism as a defining characteristic of being South African. These principles are entrenched in broad national, provincial and local (school) educational policies. One such educational policy is the National Language in Education Policy (LIEP), which has considerable implications for schools in rural communities. While the LIEP postulates the eleven official languages as equal in bilingual education, in practice English is given an elevated position as the primary Language of Learning and Teaching (LOLT). This paradox inherent in the iv LIEP appears to be having considerable impact on language usage and choices in both urban and rural communities. This investigation traces a group of rural communities which are currently experiencing a gradual transition from Zulu monolingualism towards increasing English and Zulu bilingualism. This study investigates this transition in the school and home context, as well as in its impact on the broader community. It considers whether additive or subtractive bilingualism may be emerging and the extent to which the educational policies of Outcomes-Based Education and LOLT may be causally implicated. The data collection methods employed include participant observation, questionnaires and interviews, which allow me to construct a detailed description of language usage, both in the school context, at home and in the community. In examining the patterns of the language choices of Grade 11 learners in the three selected high schools, I seek to allow the impact of the new educational policies on these learners and on their rural communities to become visible. I then consider a number of explanations for the types of bilingualism emerging in these three communities, in terms of varying contextual factors, the educational environment and the social and cultural identities favoured by speakers.