English reading and writing performance of Xitsonga-speaking Grade 7 learners in township schools: A case study

  • Tintswalo V Manyike
  • Eleanor M Lemmer


A clear preference for English as language of teaching and learning (LoLT) is evident in most South African schools. However, discrepancies exist between language policy aims and educational outcomes with regard to the successful acquisition of English among English second language (ESL) learners. Effective participation in all learning activities is closely linked to learners’ proficiency in the LoLT; poor English proficiency leads to underachievement across the curriculum. In the light of this, a case study as conducted to investigate the English reading and writing performance of Grade 7 Xitsonga-speaking learners in three selected township schools in the Tshwane metropolitan area, Gauteng Province. Firstly, a literature review was undertaken to explore the importance of reading and writing skills in the classroom with particular reference to the demands made on ESL learners. Following this, standardised tests were used to assess the learners’ English reading and writing performance. Findings indicated that learners performed poorly in both reading and writing; however, no significant relationship could be demonstrated between reading and writing, possibly due to the nature of the components of the test. The overall lack of reading and writing competence in English holds implications for learners’ academic achievement in all learning areas in situations in which English is used as the LoLT.


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Author Biographies

Tintswalo V Manyike
Tintswalo Vivian Manyike is senior lecturer in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of South Africa, Her research interests include multicultural/bilingual education, teaching English as a second language and language policy in education. Email: manyitv@unisa.ac.za
Eleanor M Lemmer
Eleanor Lemmer is professor in the field of Comparative Education in the Department of Further Teacher Education at the University of South Africa. Her research interests include language policy in multicultural schools in South Africa and parent involvement. Email: lemmeem@unisa.ac.za