Practitioners’ experiences in using Sesotho as medium of instruction in Grade R classes in Qwaqwa
Lesupi, Edith Matseliso
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The aim of this study was to explore Grade R practitioners’ experiences of using Sesotho as the medium of instruction. The study was approached through an interpretative paradigm, loosely using a phenomenological perspective, which helped to focus on the lived experiences of Grade R practitioners. The study focused on three questions: • How does the Qwaqwa context influence the use of Sesotho as a medium of instruction in Grade R? • What do practitioners’ teaching experiences suggest about Sesotho as the medium of instruction in Grade R? • What are the challenges practitioners’ experience in using Sesotho as a medium of instruction? The study involved the Qwaqwa region, Free State Province. Eight practitioners from Grade R participated in the study. Each had at least three years of experience. This study used a qualitative approach in order to understand the experiences of the practitioners in teaching Grade R in the mother tongue. Semi-structured interviews were used to collect the data. This helped to have a flexible approach to hearing the voices of the practitioners. The findings of the study showed that Qwaqwa has a rapidly changing social context. Many foreigners are settling in the area, affecting not only how Sesotho is spoken, but also the development of languages other than Sesotho. These have an influence on the children in Grade R as they are exposed to different languages in their community. The practitioners felt very proud of using Sesotho as the medium of instruction in their classes. However, they were concerned about the lack of support for teachers of African languages in Grade R. The challenges experienced related to planning, teaching, assessment, learning and teaching support materials. Although some head of departments and principals were helpful, it was clear that learning facilitators from the department and other departmental officials needed more capacity-building programmes to assist practitioners. This study adds to the call for greater attention to be paid to the use of African languages, such as Sesotho, as the medium of instruction in Grade R. This grade is vii the entry point of basic schooling. Therefore, it needs a strong, coherent foundation in order to be effective in the learning of basic skills in the foundation phase. The draft policy on the introduction of African languages in South African schools is promising a new direction in mother tongue instruction in African languages.