LETTER: SA children need more local literature
The IEB should focus more on introducing SA writers and their stories to the curriculum
It is great to see that the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) has finally heeded calls to introduce African literature into the matric syllabus. The introduction of The Theory of Flight is a great first step, but how does it have any more relevance to a South African pupil than Shakespeare?
For years pupils have decried the fact that Shakespeare is a part of the matric syllabus, criticising it for being outdated and irrelevant to our modern society. After reading The Theory of Flight I found myself questioning whether this really was an improvement from the days of Shakespeare.
The Theory of Flight is the debut novel of Siphiwe Gloria Ndlovu, an expat Zimbabwean writer, and it focuses primarily on the life and death of Imogen “Genie” Nyoni. It is a beautifully written, complex book that seeks to tackle and unbox the complexities, disillusionment and ultimate disappointment that came with the independence of Zimbabwe.
However, one must ask just how much benefit a South African student could gain from such a book. Of course, reading a wide range of literature is extremely important, but should we not be supporting some of the fantastic local authors our country has to offer?
Damon Galut is an example of local literary excellence. He was awarded the Booker Prize in 2021 for The Promise, yet many South Africans have never heard of him. The Promise is a beautifully written work that explores the rise and fall of a white family living on a farm outside Pretoria. It follows the family’s failure to honour a promise to a black woman who has been employed by them her whole life, to provide her with a house and land on their property. It is a complex book in which the narrator fluidly moves between characters. It is local fiction at its best.
With such amazing works produced by South Africans about beautiful South African topics why do we feel the need to go abroad? The IEB should focus more on introducing SA stories to the curriculum at all levels — not just matric — to broaden pupils' understanding of their own country and the excellence it produces.
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