Women’s Month: Changing South Africa’s Language Learning Policy to Decolonize Curricula


African language students at South African universities should enjoy the same learning privileges as English and Afrikaans language students. Changing South Africa’s language learning policy is crucial in this process and is a fundamental step towards decolonizing curricula in the country’s higher education institutions.

This is according to Naledi Maponopono, a doctoral student in the African Languages ​​and Literatures section of the University of Cape Town (UCT) at the School of Languages ​​and Literatures. Maponopono is a part-time lecturer at the South African College of Applied Psychology and recently completed an internship at UCT where she taught medical students about isiXhosa communication, as well as acquiring the first and second isiXhosa language to students of the Department of African Languages. . Currently, she is a Curriculum Development Specialist at Curro Digital Education and runs her own business, Inkwenkwezi Language Services – a company that offers its clients a range of language services. She is passionate about the development of African languages ​​in the education system and its use as a vector of change to address the myriad challenges of the sector.

Maponopono has already been recognized for her work. She was recently named one of News24’s 30 young Mandelas of the future. The list includes several young changemakers who embody the true spirit of Nelson Mandela and who, in their own way, are making a difference in South Africa. To celebrate Women’s Month, UCT News will spotlight outstanding women in the campus community – Maponopono is one of them.

“It motivated me to keep working hard and playing my part in creating a better South Africa.”

“Wow! To be likened to an icon like Madiba is huge. I’m touched and honored to have made this list. It has motivated me to keep working hard and playing my part [in] create a better South Africa,” she said.

Decolonize the curricula

The subject of Maponopono’s doctoral research is “Analysis of the implementation of language policies in higher education”. Through her research, she seeks to develop a monitoring and evaluation tool specifically for the government – to assess its progress and readiness to implement the use of African languages ​​in higher education institutions – for purposes of teaching and learning. This idea, Maponopono explained, is in line with the national language policy framework, which aims to promote and strengthen the use of all official languages ​​in the functional areas of the country’s public higher education institutions.

“Much of the current literature in this area of ​​study points to the fact that although we have many language policy frameworks at the governmental and institutional level, their implementation by government is virtually non-existent,” he said. she stated.

The aim of its monitoring and evaluation tool is to help develop African languages ​​into academic languages ​​of teaching and learning and to ensure that higher education institutions adopt them. What she would like to see in the long term is for all South African students to receive their education in a multilingual environment in a language they understand. This, she believes, will help them thrive.

Research 101

Maponopono is no stranger to this research topic. Similarly, his master’s research also focused on the implementation of language policies in the basic education sector.

“I wanted to use my MA to transcend finding solutions to language policy in the higher education space. Speakers of African languages ​​remain disadvantaged in this sector. They don’t have the advantage of learning in their mother tongue, and it goes back to colonialism and apartheid when the languages ​​of the people were not recognised,” she said.

Currently, Maponopono is the only African language scholar in the country to have embarked on such a research project. This, she said, means she will be the first South African researcher to work to raise the government’s national language policy framework from its “previously diminished status” to help language policy in schools. ‘Higher Education.

Advancing South Africa

Maponopono said she hopes her research will play an important role in moving South Africa forward in ensuring access to education for all, despite students’ language of choice.

“The language policy change plays a vital role in helping students familiarize themselves with the campus environment and coursework,” she said. “As things change and I reach my goal, I hope this will give African language students the confidence to apply to any institution of higher education without worrying about a language barrier.”

“South Africa will benefit greatly from a multilingual educational environment.”

More than that, she hopes her research will motivate other potential scholars to pursue higher education in African languages ​​to expand the pool of scholars in this underserved field of study. Maponopono said she hopes her research will also provide the government with the boost it needs to implement the language policy framework for higher education institutions.

“South Africa will benefit greatly from a multilingual educational environment as we will be able to produce many more excellent professionals who at this stage are reluctant to enroll in university because English and Afrikaans are not their preferred languages. It is necessary to solve this problem to move our country forward,” said Maponopono.


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