by Dante Piras

African languages are silent

More African languages need to have a presence in higher education institutions

According to Minister of Higher Education and Training, African languages need to be embraced in higher education institutions
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The development of African languages is tied to social justice which is an indispensable element of nation building and the promotion of social cohesion in our country.

Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, said this in his keynote address at the University of Stellenbosch African Languages Day this morning, adding that his department remained concerned with the slow development of African languages in South Africa’s universities.

“It stands to reason that we cannot effectively preserve and promote the cultures and histories of our people if we do not pay special attention to the development of their languages. In other words, the best route to preserve peoples’ cultures is to start with their languages,” Minister Nzimande said.

Speaking under the day’s theme of “The role of African Languages in a 21st Century education”, the Minister added that the development of languages was a result of concerted human effort and commitment rather than something that happened on its own.

He added that South Africa was at a stage of its democracy when citizens should be taking stock of the progress the country has made in the development of languages and not debate whether or not it was practical or viable to affirm the value of African languages. 

“We are past the stages of debate. 18 years into our democracy, we should be past the stage where we are still surprised by so few dissertations written or research conducted in any of our indigenous languages,” Minister Nzimande said.

He pointed out that while English has developed as an international language of commonality globally, however, many advanced countries use their own languages as languages of teaching, learning and scholarship. He made the example of French, German, Japanese and Spanish.

“The barrier is when languages are not developed as languages of scholarship,” said the Minister.

Minister Nzimande has put together a Ministerial Advisory Panel that is looking at the issue of the development of indigenous African languages in higher education will undertake a broad review of the obstacles facing the implementation of effective language policies and practices at institutions of higher education and training.

“This Panel will submit its report in June next year with the expectation that based on the terms of reference, such a report will provide concrete recommendations and proposals on interventions to be made to speed up the development of African languages within higher education institutions,” said Minister Nzimande.



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