Live Mag

Win one of 3 airtime vouchers by completing our survey on the language policy for higher education

by: Sheilan Clarke - 26 November 2015


VIP recently hosted a debate on the Language Policy for Higher Education on Cape Town TV. We’ve highlighted what the policy is about as a way of helping you complete the survey below.

Policy Hack on Cape Town TV

Gcobisa Yani, a member of Open Stellenbosch community, joined us for an in-depth look at life as a non-Afrikaans speaking Maties student. She talked about having to use inaudible translation devices and also mentioned that the “Luister” documentary gave students and staff the opportunity to talk about race and transformation in Stellenbosch. The documentary, which was filmed by white University of Cape Town students, recount the instances of racism told by several black students and one white lecturer.

We asked how do we develop African languages on campus and which of those languages should we give preference to, if any.

What does the policy say?

The Language Policy for Higher Education of 2002 speaks to the need to develop African languages to the point where they can be used for academic and scientific purposes. It also highlights the importance of promoting multi-linguism.

What the experts say

Andrew Foley, an English professor at Wits University, detailed what it would mean to develop the nine official African languages and the challenges that can arise. Here are some of his findings as found in his research article, “Language policy for higher education in South Africa: implications and complications”.

  • None of the nine African languages have much political and patriotic urgency as Afrikaans did during apartheid.
  • It would be costly to develop all nine African language.
  • Even though Afrikaans was developed and lots of money was put into it, it still remained inferior to English as many scientific terms are best expressed in English. Therefore, many students would opt to learn in English.

“The development of Xhosa to the level where it can perform higher functions such as serving as a medium of instruction at institutions of higher learning is possible,” says Bertie Neethling, Emeritus Professor in the Xhosa Department at the University of the Western Cape.

He adds, “This development is possible, but whether it would be worth the investment, time and energy in the current educational context in South Africa, is, of course, not easy to answer. It will take a long time to prepare learning material and to train and develop competent staff in all areas of learning and teaching”.


Language Policy Survey