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South African pupils to learn in first language

JOHANNESBURG — South African students will be able to learn in their first language during early school years under a new government plan — a move that has received a universal welcome in the country.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced the change Tuesday. She said pupils will have the option of learning in their mother language in their first three years of schooling. Children are currently taught either in English or Afrikaans, both languages inherited from the eras of colonialism and apartheid.

Education experts have been calling for the change for years, as South Africa has nine other official languages. The experts and opposition groups say many studies favor first language learning as a major contributor to higher passing rates in many countries.

Under the changes outlined Tuesday, teachers also will be relieved of many paperwork responsibilities to concentrate more on teaching.

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