Dean and Head of the School of Arts Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa is the new Chairperson of Universities South Africa’s (USAf’s) Community of Practice for the Teaching and Learning of African Languages (CoPAL).
Elected at a CoPAL meeting at Stellenbosch University recently, Hlongwa believes that ‘intellectualizing African languages and using them in science, for example, requires a radical transformation of the role indigenous African languages play in academia. But if we are afraid to make use of African languages, they will remain on the periphery.
‘During the course of 2022, an audit took across South Africa’s 26 public universities examining what resources and infrastructure they have in place to support the implementation of the Language Policy Framework,’ she said. ‘We look forward to seeing a comprehensive picture of what universities have done, what resources are available, and what should be prioritized.’
She wants to see SADiLaR being audited in its own right, to see what African language resources they already have available in the context of their mandate, and how these can be shared across the system. ‘The one way for language implementation to be successful is through the sharing of existing resources and knowledge. So, it is imperative that we know what resources are currently available so we can use them effectively,’ said Hlongwa.
‘Universities should not set out each time to reinvent the wheel. Collaboration and partnerships are the way to go.’
She cited the example of UKZN, which is introducing a second African language, Sesotho, alongside isiZulu in their revised language policy currently going through approval processes in University structures. UKZN, which will work very closely with the University of Free State (UFS) in promoting Sesotho, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UFS that will allow them to share resources in the two languages – Sesotho and isiZulu – already being used in teaching there.’
She sees partnerships as a way to fast-track the intellectualization of African languages. ‘The most important thing for me is to position African languages at the center of the transformation agenda of the higher education landscape. We have to revitalize African languages in the context of the 4th industrial revolution and also build centers of excellence in each of the African languages,’ she said.
She also argues for the inclusion of student leadership. ‘They need to be engaged even further regarding language implementation and the role of African languages in transforming higher education. They are at the forefront of transformation in higher education and they have to be on board if we want to improve the performance of students in our universities.’
Looking forward to a successful tenure of office at CoPAL, Hlongwa thanked Chief Executive Officer of Universities South Africa (USAf) Dr. Phethiwe Matutu; previous Chairperson Professor Langa Khumalo, and previous Deputy Chairperson Professor Nokhanyo Mdzanga, for their support.