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10 September 2019

HSRC to host a symposium on language in SA institutions of higher education

Adziliwi Nematandani
Press Release

Pretoria, Tuesday 10 September 2019 – The Human Science Research Council (HSRC) invites members of the media to a symposium on language practices in South African higher education institutions to be held at Zevenwacht Wine Estate, Cape Town from 15 to 17 September 2019.

The 2008 Ministerial Committee Report on Transformation and Social Cohesion and the Elimination of Discrimination in Public Higher Education Institutions declared that there should be a substantive and sufficient multilingualism in academic and support activities at all public universities in South Africa.

However, according to the conference convener, HSRC’s Dr Alude Mahali, an overwhelming majority of instruction and business is still conducted in English or Afrikaans which continues to marginalise a large group of the black student population.

Dr Mahali indicated that various interventions have been made to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of language policy, the most recent one being the establishment of a Ministerial Advisory Panel on the Development of African Languages in Higher Education.

However, she said from the report on this policy, it is clear that there remains a little to no progress in exploring the use of indigenous African languages, due to a lack of incentive, non-compliance and general apathy towards the promotion of multilingualism.

She added that with the exception of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, many universities claim to support multilingualism in policy, but in reality they have failed to formalise African languages as alternate languages of instruction, communication or examination.

“A language focused conference is a valuable way to bring together scholars and practitioners, working on language in different capacities, ten years after the seminal Ministerial Report. We will be taking stock, asking questions such as, what have we achieved with our multilingual goals, where are the gaps between policy and practice, can we make recommendations towards how these policies can work more resourcefully in practice?,” said Dr Mahali.

The conference will bring together experts in the areas of translanguaging, multilingualism, linguistic ethnography, biliteracy, multiliteracy, language policy, sociolinguistics, linguistic citizenship, academic literacy, the sociology of education, educational leadership or the promotion of African languages.

The symposium aims to produce a feasible framework for policy recommendations, future monitoring and evaluation tools and interventions that have implications for improving resources to meet language challenges at South African Higher Education Institutions.

The media are invited to attend as follows:

Date:       Sunday 15 to Tuesday 17 September 2019
Time:       Sunday: 17h00 – 21h30
               Monday: 09h00 – 16h30
               Tuesday: 09h00 – 16h00
Venue:     Zevenwacht Wine Estate, Langverwacht Rd, Kuils River, Cape Town, 7579

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact Adziliwi Nematandani, 0827659191, email:

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About the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

The HSRC was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, doing cutting-edge public research in areas that are crucial to development.

Our mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences.

The Council conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific research for public sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies. Research activities and structures are closely aligned with South Africa’s national development priorities.