ethnography and education -- help?
Fri, 15 Apr 1994 09:07:25 RSA
I have seen a number of people asking for rather broad help on several
very loosely defined topics so i thought I would ahve a go, too.
I am a Professor of Anthropology at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg
South Africa. I have a number of students who wish to direct their
studies towards an area of intense and urgent concern in contemporary
South Africa, namely education. This is not an area that I am very
well versed in, and I suspect that there might be some of you out there in
the ether who could help. Let me outline very briefly their intended topics
1. One wishes to do a study of the use of 'isicamthu', a lingua franca or
'koineised' (after Siegel) language in black schools in the Johannesburg/
Soweto region. 'Isicamthu' (meaning 'talk' or 'communication') is an urban
language that consists of a mixed lexicon drawn from English, Afrikaans,
Zulu and Sotho (the overwhelming majority of people in the region speak
these language) with a grammar that is principally Zulu, or perhaps A
pidginised Zulu. The student is beginning work at the MA level, and wants
to investigate the use of isicamthu in schools. It is strongly associated
with youth, and while facilitating communication amongst students,
often interferes with communication between students and teachers, and
appears t interfere with instruction.
Incidentally, all 11 major South African languages have 'equal legal
status' now--or rather are soon to have. The medium fo instruction is
nominally English; Afrikaans is not reguired in Black schools.
2. Second topic: a study of learning of science concepts in Black schools.
The student has begun exploring the concepts that elementary school children
have of the solar s\ystem, systems of solids and liquids, and elementary
geometircal forms. Using Piagetian-type methods, he is eleiciting
protocols that will be analysed. We hope to go on to more in depth
ethnographic investigations of learning related to science concepts.
3. A study of the need and possibilities for implementing early childhood
car and education facilites in a poor rural area (Sekukuneland in the Eastern
Please help with any bibiography, exemplary studies, contacts that we might
make, etc. Ideas and thoughts about developing an ethnography of education
theme or project would also be welcome.
Thanks, R. Thornton.
ROBERT THORNTON TEL: (011) 716 2900 OFFICE
DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY (011) 716 2766 SEC'TY, & TO LV MSG.
UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND Home:(011) 646 2578
PVT. BAG 3 Fax: (011) 716 2766 (Anthro Office)
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