The Unisa main campus in Muckleneuk. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)
The Unisa main campus in Muckleneuk. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Universities, experts hold talks to advance transformation in higher education

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Sep 30, 2021

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Pretoria - Vice-Chancellors of public universities this week got together with experts and other stakeholders in a two-day colloquium to advance transformation in higher education.

The focus was to revive the role of African languages in the core functions of South Africa’s university system.

The Colloquium on the New Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education, held at Stellenbosch University, was to contemplate ways to implement the New Language Policy for Higher Education that was gazetted in October last year.

Speakers included retired judge of the South African Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs, and vice-chancellors of the universities of Stellenbosch, Cape Town, the Free State and Rhodes University.

Unisa spokesperson Professor Ahmed Bawa said the dialogue was aimed at understanding the implications of the Department of Higher Education and Training’s Language Policy Framework on the teaching, learning, research and administration of the universities.

It also sought to understand what innovative work was going on in South African universities.

Bawa said this would ultimately contribute to improving the quality of teaching and learning, research and to broaden access and success.

“The challenge is to put in place the infrastructure and resources to bring these important initiatives to fruition. The challenge is to effectively integrate African languages much more into the core functions of our universities,” he said.

Dr Sizwe Mabizela, vice-chancellor and principal of Rhodes University and the chairperson of Universities of South Africa’s Teaching and Learning Strategy Group, said that by mainstreaming African Languages in teaching and learning, universities will be advancing transformation beyond granting access and diversifying South Africa’s higher education system.

He added that by delivering the curriculum in students’ mother tongue, universities will be supporting them more meaningfully and enhancing their success.

Mabizela said African languages were historically denigrated for political gain.

“We must take the language policy from the periphery that it occupies within our institutions and place it at the centre of vice-chancellors’ strategic outlook. This is central to acknowledging the diversity of our students in our institutions.

“For many, English is not a mother tongue. We need to start explaining concepts in mediums other than in English as the most predominant language.

“We also need to instil a sense of pride in our own languages and convey a message to our children of the importance of English, but lift all other languages to the same level as important media of communication for our thoughts and ideas. Our people must enjoy seeing their languages being respected. Language also builds a nation.”

Pretoria News

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