College of Human Sciences

Multilingual education the driving force behind transformed HEIs

Speaking at Unisa’s recent International Mother Language Day celebration, Prof Koliswa Moropa, Project Leader in the institution’s Language Unit, said that the role of language is critical in the transformation of higher education because it not only impacts access and success, but also affirms diversity.

The programme directors were Mamoya Letseleha (Department of African Languages) and Dr Napjadi Lestoalo (Acting Chair of the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages)

"This means that the implementation of multilingual policies at South African universities determines the new epistemologies that shift away from discriminatory methods of the apartheid regime," she continued.

Showcasing traditional Basotho items

Moropa further emphasised that multilingualism and mother-tongue-based education are the driving forces for the transformed and Africanised institutions of higher learning.

In her welcome address, Dr Feziwe Shoba, a language specialist at the unit, emphasised the importance of preserving our indigenous languages. She added that Unisa has a language policy that promotes the equitable use of all 11 languages, including sign language. "Unisa’s goal is multilingual education," she said. "We say that English is the medium of instruction, but there are means to support students in various languages. Sometimes we feel or are of the view that language is not that significant, whereas language is, in fact, a tool and an asset to transform the curriculum."

In 1999 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared 21 February as International Mother Language Day, which has been observed globally since 2000. The main purpose of this commemoration is to promote public awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity, as well as multilingualism.

Unisa celebrated the day by demonstrating cultural diversity through recitations of indigenous poems and the wearing of traditional regalia. Book-readings were presented in various mother languages, and resources in indigenous languages terminology, development and lexicographical products and dictionaries were showcased. Traditional music and food rounded off a memorable celebration.

Themed "Multilingual education, a necessity to transform education in a multilingual world", this year’s hybrid webinar was organised by the Language Unit in partnership with Unisa’s College of Human Sciences, College of Education and Curriculum Transformation Unit.

Click here to watch a recording of the celebration.

#Unisa 150

* By Tebogo Mahlaela, Communication and Marketing Specialist, College of Human Sciences

Publish date: 2023/03/15

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