South Africa: Indigenous language plan hitch

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun Apr 24 15:28:56 UTC 2005

Indigenous language plan hitch

    April 23 2005 at 11:35AM

By Zukile Majova

A shortage of colleges teaching African languages could forestall the
government's plan to have more public servants speaking them. A
government-appointed commission on language policy headed by the
University of Cape Town's vice-chancellor, Njabulo Ndebele, advised this
month that South Africans wanting to work for government or state
institutions should be competent in at least one indigenous African

The intention is to fight for the souls of indigenous African languages,
which President Thabo Mbeki says are not spoken enough in schools,
parliament, provincial legislatures, municipalities or other public and
private institutions. However, the down side to the proposal is the fact
that most provinces do not have accredited institutions to teach the
languages. For instance, in KwaZulu-Natal the only way future public
servants could get lessons in isiZulu is to enrol at a technikon or
university for lessons at third-language level. In most universities one
can only enrol for African languages while studying towards other

KwaZulu-Natal Director of Language Services Bongumenzi Mpungose said the
public servants could enrol at universities and technikons, while other
departments offered literacy courses by hiring private service providers.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal was the only university that offered
individual courses in indigenous languages, while the University of
Zululand was in the process of doing so, Mpungose said. "The problem is
that although some of the literacy programmes have been running for the
past 10 years, we still do not have a way of assessing their success
rates. The Education Department assesses the Adult Basic Education
programmes, but similar programmes offered by NGOs and contracted private
services are not assessed," said Mpungose.

He said another difficulty was to acquire credible statistics about the
number of people already in the public service who were not literate in

This article was originally published on page 3 of The Independent on
Saturday on April 23, 2005

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