Learning isiZulu made easier for kids with Siyafunda

12 July 2016

“Children are more likely to pass and stay in school when they are taught with their optimal language at primary level,” said Siya Masuku, author and illustrator of Siyafunda, a book made for children learning isiZulu at a primary level.

It all started with a conversation Masuku had with his mother, a primary school teacher in Soweto. She was concerned because there was a shortage of books at the school. “When I was growing up, my siblings and I were fortunate to have access to books at home,” he said. “The impact of our conversation made me realise how important it was to create Siyafunda.”

The book’s title aptly means “we are learning”.

Siyafunda book Siyafunda is designed for children learning isiZulu at a primary level. (Image: Supplied)

Unesco, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, supports a multilingual approach to education. In its Advocacy Kit for promoting Multilingual Education: Including the Excluded, Unesco’s Principles on Language and Education it stated that “mother-tongue instruction is essential for initial instruction” and the best way to maintain literacy was to have a quality supply of reading materials.

The organisation estimated 40% of the global population did not receive an education in a language they spoke or understood.


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Masuku started making the book in January 2015, taking about a year to lay the foundations. “We are still making it to this day.”

The book, he said, focused on the phonetics of the isiZulu language. “The learner is able to pronounce all 25 alphabets in the isiZulu language through the aid of an isiZulu teacher.”

Siyafunda is designed to focus on learning the phonetics in isiZulu. (Image: Supplied)

It makes use of compelling visuals and new words to add to a learner’s daily vocabulary, especially in early childhood education.

There is also an English translator page for non-isiZulu speakers, making it easier to understand for those who don’t read isiZulu.

Siyafunda aims to increase a growing interest in approaching literacy and learning as an extramural activity.”

It would be available to schools in early 2017, Masuku said.

Further plans

The goal is to create a digital version of the book to be made available online. Working with Danieteach, Masuku created a platform for learners to subscribe to Siyafunda, enabling them to learn isiZulu no matter where they were.

“The best feature is the narration, done by Mamoroa Ledwaba, who is an isiZulu teacher by profession,” he said. “This means learners will be able to access Siyafunda with the guidance of a virtual teacher.”