Does Onderwêreld by Fanie Viljoen meet the norms of a successful prescribed work for Grade 12 Afrikaans Home Language learners?

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The causes and consequences of the decline in learners’ reading are investigated worldwide. Swanepoel (2002:9) states that Afrikaans teachers believe that it is particularly Grade 11 and 12 learners who do not read anymore. In a study by Snyman (2006:145–79) on the reading preferences and behaviour of Afrikaans children, as well as adolescents (9 to 15 years old), she finds reading to be very low on the agenda of most respondents. She claims that her respondents’ negative attitude towards reading can be traced to parents, teachers and the lack of availability of books at home, in schools and in libraries. Vos’s (2014:42–7, 232–7) finding that the decline in the reading motivation of South African learners can be traced largely to schools and, more specifically, to the teacher, corresponds with this.

In research done by Du Toit and Bouwer (2009:91–100), the seemingly privileged respondents, who had been identified as good readers, pointed out several external factors that had an impact on their reading motivation; the actions of teachers are especially crucial in forming their reading habits. Some negative perceptions of these respondents are that school-prescribed books do not always fall in their field of interest, that some teachers often present reading activities in a boring way and that the prescribed books are not always being discussed in detail. Some respondents feel that reading activities are often followed by a worksheet and the aspect of enjoyment of reading is rarely addressed.

In line with this, Kleyn, Snyman and Geldenhuys (2013:74–96) could, in a study of first-year students, trace back the negative perceptions on certain school-prescribed material to dull, outdated and sometimes irrelevant works, that they deemed incomprehensible, boring, negative and limited. In addition to that, the respondents were of the opinion that certain prescribed texts were not compelling enough. None of the narratives could be classified as youth literature.

From the findings of Kleyn et al. (2013:81–2), it is clear that the adolescents had experienced some problems with existing, as well as previously prescribed works. It can be concluded that the choice of a prescribed book poses several challenges and the successful selection of such a book holds benefits for both the learner and the promotion of reading.

Burger (2015:49) emphasises the crucial influence of high-quality school-prescribed books on learners. According to him, such school-prescribed books are sometimes the only and the last exposure to valuable and classical literature in learners’ lives. He stresses that the content information in contemporary youth literature, such as swearing and certain themes that are not in agreement with parents’ ideas about the world, politics or religion, can be problematic for adolescent readers.

Currently, the selection of a suitable school-prescribed novel for Grade 12 Afrikaans Home Language learners is in the crossfire. The choice of Onderwêreld by Fanie Viljoen, which is on the list of prescribed works for Grade 12 Afrikaans Home Language learners from 2017, unleashed controversy. The debate dealing with this youth novel that has prevailed in the media, stresses again that school-prescribed works are a dilemma and that there is still a lot of misconceptions about youth literature.

In this article, the interpretive approach was used as a theoretical framework for answering the question, namely whether the youth novel Onderwêreld by Fanie Viljoen meets the norms for a successful prescribed work for Grade 12 Afrikaans Home Language learners. To be able to give an opinion on the success of this work, it was necessary to measure this youth narrative against certain norms.

Firstly, an extensive literature review was undertaken to investigate the author identity of Viljoen, the nature and value of youth literature for the adolescent reader, as well as the reading preferences and needs of such a reader. Secondly, a document analysis of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) for the Further Education and Training Phase (FET Afrikaans Home Language) was conducted, with the view to determine what the requirements for reading and viewing skills, as well as the teaching of literature in this phase entail. Subsequently norms were compiled for a successful prescribed work for adolescent readers (see paragraph 5) from the literature findings (see paragraph 4.1) and the CAPS document analysis (see paragraph 4.2).

Finally, the text of Onderwêreld was analysed to determine the extent to which the content meets the newly-appointed norms for a successful prescribed work for adolescent readers.

The youth novel, Onderwêreld by Fanie Viljoen, does meet the norms for prescribed works for adolescent readers, as compiled from the literature review and the analysis of the CAPS document. When this youth novel is measured against the norms for a prescribed work for adolescent readers (in this case Grade 12 Afrikaans Home Language learners), it is especially the fact that the protagonist is of the same age as the average Grade 12 learner, that makes this story succeed. Although the protagonist is a boy, current issues (including cybercrime, the suicide of a loved one, and complex relationships), which girls too will be able to identify with, are addressed.

In this study the aim was to provide valuable information to all social role-players (learners, parents, teachers, school management teams, the Department of Education, and selection panels) on norms for a successful prescribed work for adolescent readers.

The decline in reading motivation of adolescent readers can be ascribed to, among others, the choice of school-prescribed works. When a prescribed work for adolescent readers, more specifically for Grade 12 Afrikaans Home Language learners, has to be selected, a critical approach is essential. The responsibility of teachers and selection panels can therefore not be overemphasised. These role-players need to follow the general CAPS guidelines that have been set, but trends in the nature and value of youth literature, as well as the reading needs and preferences of adolescent readers, should continually be studied in order to supplement the set CAPS guidelines regarding reading and viewing skills, and the approach to literature teaching. Selection panels may consult the relevant stakeholders (adolescent readers, teachers, authors of youth literature, and experts of this field of study) regarding the reading needs and preferences of adolescent readers, and the proposed norms for a prescribed work for adolescent readers (see paragraph 5) may probably be used as a guideline when a book is prescribed for this particular age group.

Ultimately a system is needed where a variety of high-quality reading texts are prescribed for learners.

Keywords: adolescent reader; Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS); Fanie Viljoen; Onderwêreld; prescribed work/book/novel; reading motivation; reading needs and preferences; youth literature

Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans: Voldoen Onderwêreld deur Fanie Viljoen aan die norme vir ’n geslaagde voorgeskrewe werk vir graad 12 Afrikaans Huistaal-leerders?

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