Moving beyond artificial linguistic binaries in the education of African Language speaking children: A case for simultaneous biliteracy development

  • Xolisa Guzula


Language policy debates in South Africa concern only Black African language speaking children rather than White English and Afrikaans speaking children. These debates construct Black African children as learners with deficits and fail to acknowledge their language resources. At the same time, policy makers fail to critique the unjust system to which they are subjected and of which they are victims. In this paper, I present a brief case study of children belonging to the Stars of Today Literacy Club to show the possibilities and ways in which these children are positioned as competent multilinguals and, in so doing, can resist the prevailing deficit view. The paper has three key aims: 1) to bring to light the racist ideology behind the current implementation of language policy, showing the specific ways in which, it constructs African language speaking children as inherently different from English and Afrikaans speaking children, evidenced by the fact that English and Afrikaans language speakers’ medium is not even debated: eventually, English becomes the preferred language of instruction from Grade 4 onwards. 2) To describe how inequality is thus created and entrenched through undifferentiated language in education policies, curriculum, textbooks, and assessments, all of which are based on the unexamined idea of the child being a middle-class English-speaking child. 3) to demonstrate how bilingual children can be positioned as capable, rather than deficient, through hybrid language and literacy practices.


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