Science lessons in Xhosa

Grade 6 and 7s pupils from Khayelitsha enjoyed a day of learning science in their own language, isiXhosa, when the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA) hosted an event at Harare Square last Wednesday, June 12.

A number of science-related activities were enjoyed by pupils and teachers to show how reading can stimulate learning.

Praesa’s Nadia Lubowski said her organisation’s aim was to promote reading among children living in multilingual settings by transforming the way adults engaged with children.

“This is special contribution to struggling schools of Khayelitsha. This focuses on early childhood language and literacy development and learning and ability to shed light on the most complex subjects. The books are aimed to facilitate access to science in their mother tongue, IsiXhosa.

“Xhosa is the mother tongue for a large majority of children in Khayelitsha schools and (when it comes to) science material they are deprived and marginalised,” she said.

Pupils, the in presence of their teacher, read stories to promote fun learning. Children also went home with a science book that has been translated into isiXhosa.

Praesa gave away more than 300 books titled Iqhosha Eliyimfihlelo kaGeaorge kuzungezo lwendalo (George’s Secret key to the Universe) to the children.

Written by Lucy and Stephan Hawking, the book was translated into IsiXhosa by Xolisa Guzula and isiZulu by Phiwayinkosi Mbuyazi for PRAESA. They were tasked with identifying and more frequently coining scientific terminology to make the book accessible to isiXhosa and isiZulu readers.

Grade 6 pupil Nothemba Zityo commended the book translators.

She said science terminology is difficult in English but they have made it sound easy in their mother tongue. “This is truly unbelievable. These guys has made it look easy. I hope we can write science in our own language from now. But we will now understand it,” she said.

PRAESA is an independent research and development organisation affiliated with the University of Cape Town that has been advocating for many years to use a meaning approach to learning.