Towards an African linguistic renaissance: a case study of a South African university

SOURCE: Social justice and education in the 21st century
OUTPUT TYPE: Chapter in Monograph
TITLE AUTHOR(S): Z.Mthombeni
SOURCE EDITOR(S): W.Pearson, V.Reddy
DEPARTMENT: Inclusive Economic Development (IED)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 12000
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/16048

If you would like to obtain a copy of this Research Output, please contact Hanlie Baudin at


The inclusion of African languages as additional languages of learning, teaching and research is seen as a step in the right direction towards satisfying the aspirations of an African linguistic renaissance, which seeks to elevate the status of African languages in academia. As part of a national quest to transform higher education institutions, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in South Africa implemented a bilingual language policy under which an African language 'isiZulu' should be used alongside English as a language of learning and teaching. Utilizing an African linguistic renaissance theoretical framework, this chapter uses data from an earlier thesis by this author to explore the attitudes of UKZN staff and students towards the university's bilingual language policy and the extent to which this may help to realize an African linguistic renaissance. The chapter mainly adopts a qualitative approach using UKZN as the case study, although it also seeks to quantify some of the data, which was collected through in-depth interviews and questionnaires. This chapter shows that the university's bilingual language policy received support among the isiZulu-speaking staff and students, in line with their demographic representation at UKZN. It further argues that the investment made by UKZN in developing the isiZulu language for academic proficiency at university level is justified by the impacts of the policy, contradicting arguments against using African languages for teaching and learning at university level which have been made on the grounds that they are inadequate for this function. The findings pose a challenge to African intellectuals and other South African universities, who need to assist in bolstering the importance of African languages.