By Daniella Potter
Rhodes University will start offering an isiXhosa mother-tongue course again in 2008. The Department of African Languages is also working on projects developing the use of the language in diverse fields of study.
The initiative is a joint effort between Rhodes University’s department of African Languages and South African-Norway Tertiary Education (SANTED) programme to promote a multi-lingual South Africa.
Rhodes University’s School of Languages was awarded the R3 million grant, for the promotion of isiXhosa, last year.
At a press conference on Thursday March 22, 2007 Rhodes School of Languages’ SANTED personnel, Lorenzo Dalvit and Thandeka Mapi, told how isiXhosa will be promoted at Rhodes. Dalvit said, “80% of South Africa’s citizens are not functional in English to carry out activities.” “Provisions need to be made for them to use their own language which will contribute actively to South African life, building wealth in the country,” said Dalvit. Six post-graduate students are involved in projects developing the language in the areas of Pharmacy, Law, Computer Science and Geography.
Dalvit said, “traditionally, English has been associated with high-income jobs and isiXhosa with low-income jobs.”
Rhodes’ Dean of Students, Vivian de Klerk said, “It is vital that any policy for language, especially in the system of education, has to take account of those likely to be affected.” Rhodes’ language policy aims to promote isiXhosa speakers’ competency in their academic fields. Dalvit said, “English is used as a medium of instruction world wide but we need to communicate with people in South African communities,” whose mother tongue is not English.
Dalvit pointed out the promotion of multilingualism will change Rhodes’ identity, as Rhodes has been formerly recognised as an English-orientated University.
Although the SRC will be involved, Dalvit said “there should be more exclusive participation of the students as they are the ones who the project will affect the most.”