Seeing the potential harm in poorly translated workbooks for primary school pupils led a single mother from Nqamakwe, near Butterworth, to challenge the status quo in intermediate education in South Africa.
Last week, Ntombenani Styoshwana, 42, originally from rural Nqamakwe, walked across the stage at NMMU’s graduation ceremony to collect her master of arts degree in applied language studies, which she has added to a litany of other educational qualifications.
Styoshwana’s master’s dissertation, punted as the first of its kind, investigated the problems with how English workbooks are translated into indige- nous languages for prima- ry school pupils between grades 4 and 6 for home language.
Brought up in a small village, Styoshwana said it was her mother who had motivated her to continue with her studies.
“I’m coming from humble beginnings. My parents did not have much but they made sure that we went to school through everything,” she said.
“My mother never went to school but she made sure that her children got an education.
“You’d never wake up and think about not going to school without a valid reason. She was very strict.”
After completing high school at the age of 16, Styoshwana went on to do a diploma in education in 2004, followed by an advanced certificate in education two years later and then a bachelor of education (honours) in 2008 – all at Rhodes University.
“I then recently acquired a BA [in] applied languages [with] honours in 2015 which is followed by this one, MA [in] applied languages, both through NMMU,” she said.
Styoshwana works with teachers in schools as an office-based educator for the Department of Education.
By being “hands on” with the materials used in class, Styoshwana said she knew teachers faced challenges with their workbooks. “The indigenous language workbooks are translated from English workbooks and that’s where the problem arises,” she said.
“You find the translation is not quite relevant or does not necessarily mean what is meant, giving a totally different meaning to the learners.”
For her study, Styoshwana did a document review in which she took English and Xhosa copies of Rainbow workbooks and examined how they were translated.
“The isiXhosa home language workbooks were evaluated against the English home language workbooks. Each workbook was carefully studied so as to find enough data that assisted with the analysis and provided enough evidence about the research problem,” she said.
Asked about the relevance of her research, Styoshwana said it would contribute to the process of learning and teaching material development.
“Qualified translators should do the translation, not just anyone who can speak the language,” she said.
Styoshwana’s research supervisor Professor Henry Thipa said it was the first time someone had attempted to do this type of research and praised her for her continuous hard work.