South Africa pleads for the use of indigenous languages
The annual Congress of the International Association of School
Librarianship (IASL) was held in Durban, South Africa at the beginning
of July. Participants from different countries focussed on the question
of how rural children can get access to reading material. Conclusion:
school libraries must offer texts on line and reading materials
must appear in indigenous languages.
Thami Mseleku, a high-level South African civil servant in the area
of education, again emphasised that illiteracy can only be combated
if children can read in their own language. That is also the conclusion
of the UN Commission for Indigenous Populations that met in Geneva
during the last week of July.
Education in indigenous languages in South Africa is a hot item.
The country has had twelve official languages since 1994, but English
and Afrikaans are the preferred languages in all sorts of domains.
T.A.L.K. (Transfer of African Language Knowledge) is an organisation
that is campaigning strongly for the spread of the other eleven
languages, such as Zulu. The language courses that the foundation
offers have turned out to be unexpectedly successful among companies
in Durban. Employees who follow such courses in turn teach Zulu
to their colleagues. This helps bridge the gap between the different
population groups on the work floor.