Enabling or disabling epistemic access?: exclusivity of Silozi as language of instruction in selected Sibbinda Circuit Pre-Primary Classrooms Of Namibia

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Mashinja, Begani Ziambo
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University of Zambia
The Language Policy for Schools in Namibia states that, the language of instruction for initial literacy is the mother tongue or the predominant local language for multilingual schools, in the early phase of schooling. Silozi is the sole language of initial literacy instruction in multilingual Zambezi education region based on the assumption that it is the predominant local language. The use of learners’ familiar language as medium of instruction enable epistemic access while unfamiliar disables epistemic access. In view of the preceding, the purpose of the study was to establish whether the exclusivity of SiLozi as language of instruction was appropriate in selected pre-primary classrooms of Sibbinda Circuit and to determine whether it enabled or disabled epistemic access to the pre-primary children with SiFwe as a dominant language in the area. The study was guided by four objectives namely: to assess the teachers and learners’ familiarity with SiLozi; to analyse the teachers and learners’ classroom language practices; to find out the challenges teachers and learners faced with the use of SiLozi as sole language of instruction; and to establish whether SiLozi was appropriate for use as sole language of instruction in the pre-primary. The study was anchored on a pragmatic paradigm. A mixed methods strategy was employed through a convergent parallel design. Simple random and purposive sampling designs were used to come up with 192 participants of whom 168 were pre-primary scholars, 6 were pre-primary teachers, 6 were principals and 12 were parents. Data were collected through a familiar language test, lesson observations, interviews and document analysis. Quantitative data obtained from the familiar language test were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS version 20) to generate descriptive statistical information in form of frequencies and percentages while qualitative data were analysed thematically according to research objectives. The findings of the study revealed that, the majority of learners were not familiar with SiLozi language of instruction. Results from the familiar language tests showed that 73.2 % of leaners scored below average and only 26.8% score average and above. The findings also revealed that teachers pedagogically democratized their classrooms by adopting translanguaging strategy as a pedagogical language practice. However, although some teachers were translanguaging through officially sanctioned languages (SiLozi and English), pupils could still not understand because the two languages were not familiar. Further, findings showed that teachers and learners faced numerous challenges including lack of familiarity with SiLozi by learners; inadequate vocabulary by teachers to translate materials written in English; lack of suitable SiLozi teaching and learning materials; inconsistent language policy from Pre-school to Primary school and lack of infrastructure, overcrowding and lack of qualification by teachers. Finally, the study concluded that the exclusivity of SiLozi as language of instruction for initial literacy is not appropriate as it disabled epistemic access to the pre-primary children where SiFwe is a dominant language in the area. Arising from the findings, the study recommends translanguaging as a pedagogical practice whose implementation and practice would pedagogically democratize the classrooms, engender multilingualism, counteract symbolic violence and ensure epistemic access. Finally, the study recommends refresher courses to equip teachers with skills of resemiotisation, semiotic remediation and multilingual pedagogical practices and eclecticism to acquaint them with how the SiLozi language pedagogy can be recontextualised in the multilingual classrooms. Keywords: Language of Instruction, Initial Literacy, Epistemic Access, Translanguaging, SiLozi
Language of Instruction , Epistemic Access