Old classics axed as SA schools embrace Africa

29 November 2015 - 02:01 By PREGA GOVENDER

Greorge Orwell's 'Animal Farm', William Golding's 'Lord of the Flies', Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible' and William Shakespeare's 'Othello' have been given the boot at South African schools. The new setwork list is part of a R1.1-billion plan by the Department of Basic Education to introduce pupils to a broader variety of reading material published in the 11 official languages.At least 15 of the 25 novels and plays to be introduced across Grades 10 to 12 over the next three years are by local writers. They include Victor Mtubani (The African Dustbin), Sol Plaatje (Mhudi), Sindiwe Magona (Mother to Mother), Omphile Molusi (Itsoseng), Zakes Mda (Dark Voices Ring) and Kagiso Lesego Molope (The Mending Season).story_article_left1Rosamund Haden ( Finders Keepers ), Charles Fourie ( The Lighthouse Keeper's Wife ), Edyth Bulbring ( The Mark ), Athol Fugard ( Tsotsi and My Children! My Africa! ), Alan Paton ( Cry, the Beloved Country ), Jane Bauling ( Dreaming of Light ), Malcolm Purkey ( Sophiatown ) and Carolyn Morton ( Hearing Helen ), have also cracked the nod.A surprise inclusion in the matric setwork list is the fantasy Life of Pi by Canadian author Yann Martel.Things Fall Apart by Nigerian Chinua Achebe is on the list - which still includes some Shakespeare plays such as Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth and Hamlet.For the first time, all Grade 10s and 11s will study the same literary works. Previously, schools and provincial education departments could pick their books.By last week, eight of the nine provincial education departments, except for the Western Cape, had spent R304.9-million on next year's Grade 11 setworks in the 11 official languages.Western Cape education department spokesman Paddy Attwell said schools could either use existing Grade 11 literature books next year or buy the new prescribed books from funds allocated to them.Elijah Mhlanga of the Basic Education Department said that it had always been the department's intention to promote local authors.mini_story_image_hright1In a document, the department stated that the existing setworks had been in circulation for a number of years and "all possible examination questions have been exhausted"."Furthermore, Umalusi [the exam watchdog body] has been very critical towards the department for keeping the current lists [of books] for as long as they have been kept."The department said that because there were no standardised exams for Grades 10 and 11 in English literature, teachers had chosen whether they wanted to teach the novel, drama, poetry or short stories."Teachers often elected to teach only the genres with which they felt comfortable or which they perceived to be less difficult. The curriculum expects all genres to be studied, therefore learners who are not exposed to all genres are at a disadvantage."The department proposed that provinces procure one classic and one contemporary novel, and a classic and contemporary play, so that pupils would be exposed to both categories in a genre.It said that for the African languages folklore would be added for the sake of "the preservation of indigenous knowledge systems".Victor Houliston, professor of English literature at the University of the Witwatersrand, welcomed the new list of prescribed works."I wouldn't fault the syllabus designers on the actual choice. The thing about doing local works, particularly if they do have an international reputation, is the affirmation of one's own culture that comes from that. Also, we are not continually thinking that we are always second best to people elsewhere in the world."story_article_left2He said pupils would relate much better to "local" novels and plays "as long as they don't have it forced down their throats all the time. It's got to be imaginatively sparky".He said: "I'm glad to see Athol Fugard because he's very popular throughout the world and that's very affirming for our pupils."But he believed that the works of writer Ivan Vladislavic and Professor Njabulo Ndebele should have been included. "Vladislavic has had international recognition and I am a little surprised not to see him there."Houliston said they taught Ndebele's Fools and Other Storiesat first-year level at Wits. "He's a really important voice. He's a little bit conspicuous by his absence."Houliston said some have dismissed Life of Pi as "eccentric", but it would be "thought-provoking".govenderp@sundaytimes.co.za

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