Enabling students to reach their potential through access to learning (in) African languages

A collaborative capacity building strategy to develop indigenous African languages in Higher Education

The BAQONDE project provides an effective response to one of the national priorities of South Africa: the development of African Languages in Higher Education. BAQONDE seeks to establish an inter-institutional network of African Language Development Units (ALDUs) in order to optimize training strategies, coordinate the production of materials, and harmonize teaching standards for multilingual teaching in Higher Education, among other goals.

The majority of South African students in the primary, secondary and tertiary education system are home-language speakers of languages other than English. Yet, apart from Afrikaans, other languages (indigenous African languages) have still not been widely used as a medium of instruction. In other words, the majority of learners do not receive education in their home language(s). Research has underlined the extremely negative impact that this situation can have on students’ performance throughout the system.

The commendable vision of national education authorities (at basic and higher education levels) to address this problem by encouraging the development and use of African languages as a medium of education has intermittently been set back by concerns of staffing, training, infrastructure, among others.

The recent approval of the Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions in South Africa (LPF, 2020), which replaces the draft Revised Language Policy for Higher Education (2017), not only requires the development of indigenous African languages as a medium of instruction and as languages of higher academic discourse, but also highlights the critical role of universities in developing indigenous African languages. In this regard, there is additional pressure for HEIs in that they need to foster inter-institutional cooperation and have to comply with this framework from 1 January 2022.

leading universities

South African indigenous languages

African Language Development Units (ALDUs)

High-level Project aims

Project Aims & Objectives

The main aim of the BAQONDE project is to facilitate and promote the use of indigenous African languages as medium of instruction at HE institutions in the South African context, working in the three dimensions:

01.

The development of innovative multilingual teaching methodologies adjusted to each Higher Education Institution (HEI)’s regional linguistic profile

02.

Development of new materials to train lecturers and to teach multilingually in the South African context

03.

Counter-acting the lack of top-down strategies to guarantee a more (linguistically) inclusive and legitimate access to Higher Education in line with the national priorities of the country

The goals of the BAQONDE project will be achieved by means of the following objectives:

01.

Establishment of an ALDU in each of the South African partner universities with appropriate ICT equipment.

02.

Implementation of methodological training sessions on multilingual teaching adapted to the specific regional linguistic profile of each HEI.

03.

Improvement of the multilingual teaching skills of a core group of trainers in each institution through innovative materials and resources (“train the trainer”).

04.

Development of multilingual online materials according to the South African HEIs’ needs for lectures in different disciplines to be hosted and shared through the ALDU’s website (POLOKELO).

05.

Establishment of an inter-institutional network of ALDUs across South African HEIs regulated by an inter-institutional board.

06.

Development of supervision / monitoring mechanisms to guarantee a culture of quality within the project, the ALDUs and the teaching practices

07.

The design of a set of guidelines to bridge the gap between previous educational levels and Higher Education in a context of (linguistic) transformation.

08.

Facilitate adequate management tools for the correct implementation of the project (impact and sustainability).

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Erasmus+ program for Capacity Building in Higher Education – Joint Projects (Ref. Project: 617498-EPP-1-2020-1-ES-EPPKA2-CBHE-JP). This website and its contents reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein

“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.