Symposium on the new Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions

27 January 2022 -28 January 2022 @ 09:10 - 13:30


January 27, 2022
09:10 AM - 01:30 PM
Continuing Education Centre, Rhodes University
Event Type:


Prof Dion Nkomo

On 9 August 2020, the Minister of Higher Education, Dr Bonginkosi Emmanuel Nzimande, promulgated the Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions. According to Dr Nzimande,

"The purpose of the policy [framework] is to provide a framework for the development and strengthening of indigenous languages as languages of scholarship, teaching and learning and communication at South African public higher education institutions, in particular, universities. The policy provides guidelines for the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of institutional language policies and contributes to transformation in higher education with specific reference to universities through enhancing the status and roles of previously marginalised South African languages to foster institutional inclusivity as well as social cohesion."

All public higher education institutions are expected to start the implementation process in 2022. This is twenty years after the adoption of the Language Policy for Higher Education in 2002 (LPHE). Fundamentally, the new framework is similar in purpose to the 2002 policy, which sought to facilitate not only physical but also epistemic access to higher education by eliminating linguistic barriers to access, participation and success. The linguistic barriers emanated from the fact that the majority of South African universities were officially monolingual, either in English or Afrikaans, while the few bilingual ones paired English and Afrikaans. None of the indigenous African languages spoken by the majority of the South African population had any official role in the system, as it has been generally the case with the other prestigious domains of language use. Webb and Du Plessis (2008: iv) observe that “the multilingual South African state established in 1994 did not necessarily bring about the establishment of multilingual universities where eleven new official languages were used as media of instruction”. While the 2002 policy sought to address that, the new framework has been developed in recognition of the “little progress made in exploring and exploiting the potential of African languages in facilitating access and success in higher education institutions”.

The NRF SARChI Chair for Intellectualisation of African Languages, Multilingualism and Education at Rhodes University, in collaboration with the Community of Practice for the Teaching and Learning of African Languages (CoPAL), is hosting a two-day (27 – 28 January 2022) symposium to reflect on the strides made and challenges encountered by different South African universities over the last two decades of the 2002 LPHE while also sharing how they envisage to respond to the imperatives of the new framework. The symposium builds on the work of CoPAL which has been engaging with different institutions since its inception as one of the communities of practice under USAf’s Teaching and Learning Strategy Group, chaired by Rhodes University’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Sizwe Mabizela. CoPAL seeks to continue providing a platform for the universities to engage regularly as they develop their review and implement institutional language policies that are aligned with the new language policy framework. The NRF SARChI Chair for Intellectualisation of African Languages, Multilingualism and Education seeks to provide a collaborative intellectual hub for academics working on multilingualism in higher education.

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