Original Research

“Mama does not speak that (language) to me”: indigenous languages, educa-tional opportunity and black African preschoolers

Vuyisile Msila
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 1, No 1 | a73 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v1i1.73 | © 2014 Vuyisile Msila | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 May 2014 | Published: 23 May 2014

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Vuyisile Msila, University of South Africa

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This study explored the experiences of young black African preschoolers as well as their parents’ perceptions towards their mother tongue. It investigated the factors that influence black African parents to prefer English over their indigenous language. The paper also explores how aspects such as cultural and social capital affect parental choice of schools. This was a qualitative study conducted in the Eastern Cape, Port Elizabeth. Four daycare centres were purposefully selected for data collection where 30 parents and 80 preschoolers became part of the sample. Two of these daycare centres are situated in a historically black area (township), and the other two are historically white daycare centres situated in the centre of the city.
The study’s findings show that there is much sociocultural influence on language acquisition and cognition. Parental choice of schools and how they socialise their children determine the kind of education their children have and this includes medium of instruction. The children preferred English to IsiXhosa and parental goals of education supported this as they fostered the English language. Yet one of the aspects captured by the article is how aspects such as cultural capital affect parental choice of the indigent parents. Learning a second language might not be simply seen as a pedagogic issue; it can also be perceived as a political issue, and children from a young age become passive participants in a political process.


indigenous languages; South Africa; daycare centres; educational opportunity; black preschoolers


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