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Exploring the use of Khelobedu as a medium of instruction in the Foundation Phase: A survey in Mopani District, Limpopo Province

Dialects such as Khelobedu are perpetually denied the chance to flourish and help promote the local culture and national identity through their use as a medium of instruction in the Foundation Phase classrooms of South Africa. As tools of communication, such dialects have the potential to be used as media of instruction in schools and contribute significantly to the development and education of learners who speak them. The continued use of Northern Sotho as the medium of instruction in Bolobedu South implies that the goal of teaching local cultural values using Khelobedu will not be achieved, which will result in cultural imperialism. This study is, therefore, an attempt to explore the attitudes of Khelobedu-L1 parents and the perspectives of teachers and district officials towards the possibility of using Khelobedu as a medium of instruction in the teaching of the Foundation Phase content in Bolobedu South. The study was conducted at two selected primary schools in Bolobedu South, Mopani District, and comprised eight Foundation Phase teachers and their learners, four school governing body members, two district officials, one member of the Pan-South African Language Board, and 142 Khelobedu-L1 parents. The study utilised both quantitative and qualitative approaches, and a convergent parallel design was followed. Quantitative data were gathered via a questionnaire designed by the researcher, and qualitative data were gathered via semi-structured interviews and classroom observations. Data were analysed using thematic analysis and descriptive and inferential statistics. The empirical data of this study revealed that Khelobedu-L1 parents held positive attitudes towards the language’s use as the medium of instruction. This attitude was shaped by factors such as culture, educational benefits, and parental involvement, which are discussed in detail in this study. Moreover, the parents shun the use of Northern Sotho as the medium of instruction as it is not used in their homes nor spoken in the Bolobedu community, and as a result, they felt that Northern Sotho was among the reasons for learners underachieving and having low self-esteem. The results of this study reflect that parents are wary of the use of Northern Sotho as they believe it subjects their children to learning other peoples’ cultures while suppressing theirs. The data from classroom observations revealed that teachers translanguaged to Khelobedu in their classrooms in the teaching of the Foundation Phase content, which includes learning areas such as Numeracy (Mathematics) and Life Skills. Their use of Khelobedu made it easy for learners to understand the content and maximised learner participation. However, learners cannot engage in translanguaging when writing assessments. They are expected to use Northern Sotho for this purpose. This study concludes that Khelobedu has a profound substance in basic education, especially in Foundation Phase classrooms, and should, therefore, be developed to be used as a medium of instruction.

Keywords: Local language, medium of instruction, translanguaging, linguistic imperialism, cultural imperialism, social justice.

Full Name
Dr Tsebo Ramothwala