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Mother tongue magic at work

A literacy project that promotes home language reading has started a new chapter of learning in the Eastern Cape.

The Bilingual Interactive Differentiated Classrooms programme made books the focus of learning and improved six-year old Thobela Bhoyoyo’s reading ability.UNICEF South Africa and the Nelson Mandela Institute for Rural Development (NMIRD) are working magic in a rural part of South Africa.

They launched the Bilingual Interactive Differentiated Classrooms programme in the Eastern Cape in 2007. Also known as the ‘magic classroom collective’, the underlying premise of this initiative is that teaching should be engaging, diverse and fully grounded in its local context. In the case of the Eastern Cape, this means promoting learning in Xhosa, the majority language in the province.

Between 2013 and 2017, UNICEF South Africa contributed about R14 million to the NMIRD. According to UNICEF there has been an improvement at both the numeracy and literacy levels of Grade R learners since the inception of the programme over a decade ago.

Fifty kilometres from the town of Bizana in rural Eastern Cape, lies Dlangezwa Senior Primary School. The school has 178 learners from Grade R to Grade 7 and the NMIRD has worked with this school since 2009 with a focus on Grades R to 3 learners.

Principal Zamuxolo Mdatya credited it with helping him and his teaching staff realise that the foundation phase of teaching is critical to a child’s development.

Six-year old Thobela Bhoyoyo is an inspiring example of a learner who has benefitted from the programme. This Grade R learner is a confident reader who, according to his teachers, understands the  text at a level above that of most Grade 6 learners.

The Bilingual Interactive Differentiated Classrooms programme made books the focus of his learning and improved his reading ability. Bhoyo said he loves seeing the words in his home language of Xhosa. He added that he wants to be a teacher when he grows up and recounted proudly how much his friends like it when he reads to them. 

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