South Africa collaborates with foreign varsities to preserve indigenous African languages

Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, has commended South African universities for collaborating with foreign universities in an effort to revive and preserve indigenous African languages.

The Universities of Rhodes, North West, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape have collaborated with foreign universities on indigenous African languages, through Project Baqonde (meaning “let them understand” in Nguni languages).

Project Baqonde is funded by the European Union, and aims to facilitate and promote the use of indigenous African languages as mediums of instruction at higher education institutions in South Africa.

“As South Africa, we welcome this important initiative by the four South African universities and also appreciate the Salamanca University in Spain, Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, who are the three partner European institutions taking part in the initiative,” Nzimande said.

He reiterated his long-held view on the importance of the development of African languages in the education system.

“Over the years, we have witnessed the gradual dearth of our languages, apart from English and Afrikaans, in the absence of their development as languages of teaching and learning, commerce and academia more generally.

“The debate is no longer whether we should develop African languages as languages of scholarship in academia, but rather when and how these languages should be part of our academic discourse beyond the mere symbolism that is currently at play at most of our universities,” Nzimande said.

Language Policy Framework

The Minister acknowledged a number of other initiatives in this regard from other universities in the country.

He called upon all South African universities to intensify work on this front, as part of implementing the South Africa’s Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions, which he signed in August 2020.

“Project Baqonde will undoubtedly contribute to the higher education policy framework, and also build on the results of a similar initiative I had initiated in October 2010, in my former capacity as Minister of Higher Education and Training, to strengthen and develop African languages as languages of science and academia,” Nzimande said.

The South African Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institution aims to provide a framework for the development and strengthening of all South African 11 official languages, with a particular focus on the development of African languages as languages of scholarship, teaching, learning and communication at universities, amongst others.

“The policy provides guidelines for the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of institutional language policies and contributes to transformation in higher education, with specific reference to universities, through enhancing the status and roles of previously marginalised South African languages to foster institutional inclusivity, as well as social cohesion.

“The development of African languages is an indispensable component of transformation and of higher education in our country. The development of African languages is tied to social justice, which is an indispensable element of nation building and the promotion of social cohesion,” the Minister said.

The development of all official languages is a necessity for human rights and dignity, access and success at post-school institutions, preservation of heritage, communication and culture, Nzimande said. – SAnews

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