Johannesburg – The government has revealed its ambitious plan to place universities under pressure to develop the country’s indigenous languages into languages of scholarship and teaching on par with English and Afrikaans.
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande has promulgated the new Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions.
The policy replaces the Language Policy for Higher Education promulgated in 2002. The old policy aimed to ensure that universities were multilingual environments in which all languages are developed as academic and scientific languages.
But it failed to bring about the intended impact, found the Report on the Use of African Languages as Mediums of Instruction in Higher Education, which the department published in 2015.
“From this report and others before it, it is apparent that there has been little progress made in exploring and exploiting the potential of African languages in facilitating access and success in higher education institutions,” said the department, in the new policy.
Under the new policy, the 26 public universities will be required to put in place plans to develop African indigenous languages.
“Higher education institutions must demonstrate in their language plans the investment they have made or will make in the development of official languages into languages of teaching and learning, scholarship and research,” said the policy.
“This is in addition to the language of learning and teaching. The plans must also reflect on ways and mechanisms to strengthen African Language Departments.”
Institutions must revise their language policies and plans “to accord greater importance to indigenous African languages for purposes of teaching and learning, scholarship, communication and administrative use”, the department said.
The department revealed a time frame plan to keep institutions on their toes. Universities will be required to brief the department on the review of their language policies and the development of native languages.
“The policies must be supported by implementation plans which must be reviewed annually to monitor progress in terms of the requirements of the department.”