Advancing the use of African languages in education

First language learning capacity building in South African higher education institutions

BAQONDE is a collaborative project between European and South African Higher Education Institutions to facilitate and promote the use of indigenous African languages as a medium of instruction in tertiary education.

Four South African universities (North-West University, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of the Western Cape and Rhodes University) and three European universities (Trinity College Dublin, University of Groningen and University of Salamanca) led by the latter have put together a realistic plan to create, develop and sustain an effective strategy to ensure the implementation of the recently approved Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in South Africa which prioritizes the development of African languages as medium of education. With this in mind, BAQONDE is a catalyst for actions that will build capacity among lecturers and students in South African tertiary education. Core initiatives of the project partners include the establishment of an inter-institutional network of African Language Development Units (ALDUs) and the progressive creation of multidisciplinary materials in African (Bantu) languages. These initiatives will be extended to other HEIs, and outreach activities at primary and secondary levels should ultimately create sector-wide synergies around African languages – capacity-building for their teaching, their intellectualisation and their embrace and use.

“Language continues to be a barrier to access and success for many students at South African higher education institutions. Despite their status as official languages, indigenous languages have in the past and at present, structurally not been afforded the official space to function as academic and scientific languages.”

Introduction to the Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions (2020)

“It is good to see a project in the spirit of South African academic and activist Neville Alexander, working towards the inclusion of students with different mother tongues”

Tom Poole - Professor of Language and Social Interaction in the Communication and Information Studies, University of Groningen.

“Having lecture notes (in isiXhosa) made me acknowledge firstly how languages are not different at all, just the colonialism has installed the idea that there are better languages than others. Having lecture slides in my language made me not feel helpless.”

Source: Antia & Dyers (2016: 539-540)

“The persistent underdevelopment and undervaluing of indigenous languages should not be allowed if public higher education institutions are to meet the diverse linguistic needs of their student population. Conditions must therefore, be created for the development and strengthening of indigenous languages as languages of meaningful academic discourse, as well as sources of knowledge in the different disciplines of higher education.

Introduction to the Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions (2020)

“Access to a full gamut of education in our ‘home’ languages is an important part of ensuring educational success for students. Home languages are generally the first languages we learn, and they are the languages of our family and our community. Education through the medium of home languages enhances educational attainment, promotes individual wellbeing and strengthens social cohesion. Classrooms which allow space for multilingual learning tend to capture and activate the creativity and potential of each student. Students have so many multilingual resources, let’s make sure our educational institutions allow them to flourish."

Lorna Carson - Professor in Applied Linguistics (2020)

“Language continues to be a barrier to access and success for many students at South African higher education institutions. Despite their status as official languages, indigenous languages have in the past and at present, structurally not been afforded the official space to function as academic and scientific languages."

Introduction to the Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions (2020)

Our Partners

This consortium comprises the following seven universities with remarkable experience and expertise in managing bilingualism or multilingualism in academic contexts. 

leading universities

South African indigenous languages

African Language Development Units (ALDUs)

High-level Project aims

Latest News

Here you will find an overview of selected current news about BAQONDE.
BAQONDE makes its appearance at CoPAL

BAQONDE makes its appearance at CoPAL

On November 11th, 2021, the Coordinator of the BAQONDE Project, Pedro Alvarez-Mosquera, participated in CoPAL’s (Community of Practice for the Teaching & Learning of African Languages) most recent meeting, organized by USAf (Universities South Africa), the representative body of the 26 public universities in the country.

Rhodes University celebrates International Mother Language Day

Rhodes University celebrates International Mother Language Day

Rhodes University, a member of BAQONDE, joined the world in celebrating the 21st anniversary of the International Mother Language Day webinar on 21 February 2021. This commemorative event, organized by African Language Studies Section…

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Please, feel free to contact us in case you have any questions, proposals of collaboration or if you need more information.

Click below for list of contacts of project members