Mother of three, Ms Mbali Jiyane, graduated with a master of arts in linguistics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal for her research that analysed narrations produced by isiZulu speaking children from KwaZulu-Natal using the Narrative Scoring Schema (NSS).
She focused on language and culture specific narrative text structure elements while investigating whether the children’s storytelling was based on a ‘Canonical’ Narrative Text Structure, which is taught at school or on a Southern African Narrative Text Structure (SANTS). It is akin to the text structure underlying traditional Southern African Folktales.
Jiyane even considered the factors of “cultural familiarity” and “urban/rural upbringing” as possible parameters that might influence the children’s narrations.
‘The investigation of children’s narrative skills is important as they yield literate language use and a child’s comprehending abilities. At the same time it provides access to a child’s level of competence concerning narrative-specific aspects of their linguistic development. Narrative abilities are interlinked to literacy development and academic achievement and are often used to predict language progress.
‘Sadly, children in multilingual societies may find themselves in an educational environment in which their cultural and linguistic practices are misaligned with the language(s) of their teaching and learning,’ said Jiyane.
She believes that investigations into narrative text structure are needed in multilingual countries so that curricula may be adjusted in order to not only preserve cultural and linguistic diversity but to also cater for the needs of multilingual children.
The results demonstrate that the narrations of children do not conform to the ‘canonical’ scoring schemas and that children seem to possess a Southern African story grammar that is in line with Southern African folktales.
Jiyane, who was a key member of her supervisor, Professor Heike Tappe’s National Research Foundation (NRF) research project, completed her thesis in just two years.
‘Mbali is an example to everyone and an inspiring, hard-working, highly intelligent young woman who has overcome great obstacles – not to mention the language barrier – by believing in herself, her goals and by working tirelessly. There is hardly anyone in the world who I respect more,’ said Tappe.
Jiyane, who has registered for her PhD, teaches undergraduate modules at both Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) and UKZN. She and her supervisor are due to co-present a paper at this year’s International Congress of Linguistics (ICL20) and are planning their first co-authored publication