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Breaking language barriers: SRU promotes inclusivity with multilingual support resources

Inclusivity in education, especially in a South African context and environment like Unisa, is vital as it ensures all students, regardless of background or ability, have equal opportunities to learn and succeed.

First-year experience website

The Student Retention Unit (SRU) has responded to the institution's call to embrace diversity and inclusivity. The unit has implemented several inclusivity strategies by translating its resources from English into the eleven South African languages. One of the resources translated into multiple languages is the First Year Experience (FYE) website, which houses the first-year experience program. Being the entry point for all first-time entering students, it is only deemed fit that students access the website and consume important information in the language that best relates to them to encapsulate the importance of the first-year experience at Unisa fully.


FYE website available in a myriad of official languages

Fundamental skills for student success

To take it a step further, and perhaps one of the most significant milestones in the inclusivity space for the unit as yet is the multilingual translation of one of the SRU's important offerings, the FYE 1500 course, which is titled fundamental skills for student success, is required to be completed by all first-time entering students at Unisa. The process of translating the FYE 1500 has been a momentous journey mainly since the course covers fundamental skills for student success. It was appropriate to allow students to gain this induction in the language of their choice for maximum impact and benefit. The FYE 1500 learning course has been translated into Sepedi, isiZulu, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, Sesotho, Setswana, Afrikaans, IsiNdebele, IsiXhosa, and SiSwati. As it stands, five sites are accessible to students, and the others are still being populated.


Just one of many translated FYE 1500 courses: Above is in Pedi

It is worth noting that the SRU collaborated with a robust team and various stakeholders such as Language Services, the Dean of Students, ARCSWiD and the Department of Institutional Advancement to ensure the content of these learning units were represented successfully.

Students with disabilities

Another strategy adopted by the SRU was to include sign language interpretation when hosting live events or workshops. Furthermore, video resources published over the years have subtitles to avoid disadvantaging students.

The SRU's dedication to fostering inclusivity through multilingual resources and sign-language support highlights the importance of embracing diversity in educational settings. By providing students with resources in their preferred languages and ensuring accessibility for all, the SRU is actively promoting an inclusive learning environment. This commitment enhances student retention and empowers students to succeed by acknowledging and valuing their diverse backgrounds. Undoubtedly, inclusivity in education is crucial for creating a more equitable and supportive academic community – just another way in which the SRU's efforts serve as a model for future endeavours to enhance Africa's intellectual futures.

*By NE Dawood and N Sigwane, Student Retention Unit

Publish date: 2024/07/05

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