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The development of indigenous African languages as mediums of instruction in higher education

Ministerial Committee [South Africa]


The Committee conducted research to investigate amongst others, the South African historical and legislative contexts and conditions that nurture language growth. The Report expresses a view that “a crisis is looming in the country regarding the preservation, maintenance and associated identity of our indigenous African languages”. The anticipated crisis is attributed to the preference for English instead of African languages in formal communication in the private and public sectors as well as in general social practice.

The Report also points to the declining numbers of students who wish to study African languages, which has resulted in the closing down of African language Departments in a number of higher education institutions. In order to prevent further decline, the Report recommends that there should be a well-coordinated, long-range national plan to provide adequate resources and support for indigenous African languages. Similarly, the existing language development infrastructure such as the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), the National Language Services (NLS) of the Department of Arts and Culture and African Language Associations should be supported, maintained and monitored.

 Additionally, the Report makes a point that the objective to develop official indigenous languages as mediums of instruction in higher education requires systemic undergirding by the entire schooling system and the enhanced public and social use of these languages in the daily lives of South Africans. It also recommends that each higher education institution should be required to identify an indigenous African language of choice for initial development as a medium of instruction. Higher education institutions could adopt a regional approach by taking collective decisions on areas of speciality to be targeted for teaching and learning in a specific indigenous African language.

Full text available as: pdf


Title of Paper: The development of indigenous African languages as mediums of instruction in higher education
Publisher: Department of Education
City: Pretoria, South Africa
Contributor: Ndebele, Njabulo; Finlayson, Rosalie; January Maclean, Thandiwe; Lubisi, Cassius; Madhadze, R; Ngubane, Sihawukele; Nyamende, Abner; Tsheole, N

Document Type:policydocument
Subject Area:National Systems and Comparative Studies
Country:South Africa
Keywords:African Language, Language Policy, Language of Instruction, Recommendations

File Size:145 KB
Date Added:14 February 2006

Ministerial Committee (2005). The development of indigenous African languages as mediums of instruction in higher education. Department of Education, South Africa.