A Historical Perspective of the Persistent Problem of Lack of Proficiency in English in South African Schools and Universities

Theophilus T Mukhuba


This article examines the nature of the problem of lack of proficiency in English by black students and black teachers in South Africa. Since liberation in 1994, South Africa has undergone changes in many spheres including in education. These changes have not necessarily translated into the improvement or betterment of the people, particularly the previously marginalized black people. In Education, there has been many experiments undertaken by the South African government and all these experiments have unfortunately failed to impact positively in students’ abilities to acquire knowledge. This has resulted in South African Universities having to deal with students who are ill-prepared to function at University. This is also largely because these students come to University woefully lacking proficiency in English, which, incidentally, is used exclusively at University. The South African government, in tacit acknowledgement of its failures to prepare students adequately during their 12 years of schooling, has given billions of Rands to Universities to try and remedy this problem. However, this effort has failed drastically as Universities have just established Academic Development Centres which are expected to miraculously improve the lot of our student. It is the contention of this article that the problem cannot be solved at University level; it needs to be addressed at school level. This article traces the root of the problem prior to 1994 in an effort demonstrate the persistent nature of this issue.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n23p2513

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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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