New office bearers elected to lead USAf’s Community of Practice for the Teaching and Learning of African Languages

Published On: 3 November 2022|

Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa (left), Dean of the School of Arts in the College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, is the new Chairperson of Universities South Africa’s (USAf’s) Community of Practice for the Teaching and Learning of African Languages (CoPAL) effective 01 January 2023. She was elected at the CoPAL meeting that took place on 12 October at Stellenbosch University.

Professor Hlongwa succeeds the current Chairperson, Professor Langa Khumalo, Executive Director of the South African Centre for Digital Language Resources (SADiLaR) at North-West University, who will continue holding office until the end of his term on 31 December 2022.

The second in command in CoPAL will be Professor Lolie Makhubu-Badenhorst (right), Director of the Multilingualism Education Project in the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) at the University of Cape Town, who is also the Chairperson of the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB). She will be taking over the reins from the current Deputy Chair, Professor Nokhanyo Mdzanga, AssociateProfessor in the Faculty of Education atNelson Mandela University. Her term of office also ends on 31 December 2022.

Dr Linda Meyer, Director of Operations and Sector Support at USAf, said while USAf was accepting the leadership change with a heavy heart, the organisation also felt exceptional gratitude and deep respect to Professors Khumalo and Mdzanga for having been so focused “on the critical discourse of what multilingualism, access, and transformation elements mean in higher education”. She expressed deep gratitude to CoPAL for its exceptional work.

She said Professor Khumalo had been “incredible” to work with, and his dedication was admired. “We look forward to seeing the CoPAL go from strength to strength as this transformational discourse advances across the academy”, she said.

All is set for the VCs’ colloquium in December

Professors Khumalo and Mdzanga will both still be at the helm for the CoPAL’s 2nd Vice-Chancellors Colloquium to be hosted by the University of Pretoria on 1 – 2 December 2022. This Colloquium, the second in a three-part-series, follows from the first meeting of VCs that was held from 28 to 29 September 2021. The 2021 colloquium sought to facilitate a common understanding on the revised Language Policy Framework for Public Higher Education Institutions that seeks to uplift South Africa’s indigenous languages and afford them parity with English, especially in teaching and learning within the public university system. The new policy framework took effect from January 2022.

This year’s colloquium, themed Moving the Conversation Forward, will reflect on the progress made in implementing this policy framework and seek to consolidate the implementation process into the medium term.

“The energy we have created as the build-up to the colloquium is palpable,” said Professor Khumalo, who added, during his update to CoPAL members, that the organising committee was finalising key speakers, and that a media strategy was about to be rolled out to ensure there was a “good, healthy, and robust build-up to the colloquium.” He said while the event would gather vice-chancellors and deputy vice-chancellors in one space to “talk about language for the two days,” CoPAL members, as the foot soldiers working with language implementation, would be addressing the practicalities of “this very noble, and really ambitious language framework”.

Professor Mdzanga urged CoPAL members to strive to attend in person.

PanSALB is monitoring multilingualism at universities

Dr Nomfundo Mali, Western Cape Provincial Manager for the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), said PanSALB wanted to monitor the implementation of multilingualism in higher education institutions. She asked participants at the CoPAL meeting to share information about what their universities were doing to give effect to the Policy Framework, and to promote multilingualism. This would strengthen PanSALB’s monitoring, and support processes as articulated in its mandate, which is to promote and create conditions for the development and use of all South Africa’s official languages.

Professor Khumalo said PanSALB was not only a stakeholder but the body responsible for this type of oversight. Adding that PanSALB’s presence at the meeting strengthened its constitutional responsibility, he requested that this entity be made a standing item on the CoPAL’s agenda to continue sharing its position in the context of higher education. “Of course, your role is not just limited to higher education,” he told the PanSALB representative. “It cuts across all the facets of our human existence.”

Should private higher education institutions join CoPAL?

A request from one private higher education institution to join CoPAL was tabled at the 12 October meeting. It was noted that accepting private higher education institutions would necessitate revision of CoPAL’s terms of reference, which currently state that it was open only to public universities.

The group felt that the request could be seen as a plea from the private higher education providers to be part of the broader academic community, an opportunity to be empowered, and to up their game. The CoPAL Chair was mandated to ask USAf’s Teaching and Learning Strategy Group for guidance because whatever decision they made in this regard would have implications on all USAf’s Communities of Practice.

Gillian Anstey is a contract writer for Universities South Africa.