UKZN Holds Firm On Zulu Language Policy

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The University of KwaZulu-Natal is holding firm on its policy of compulsory Zulu language courses for undergraduates, despite some students having concerns about it.

In 2014, as part of its language policy the university introduced isiZulu as a module for undergraduate students, which every course has to have for a semester.

According to the university, a student has the option of completing this module at any time duration of their qualification.

“The module is compulsory for all students at UKZN, except for those whom isiZulu is a first language OR those who have previously studied basic isiZulu.

Students are made aware of the University’s language policy via the Student rule book, the student portal and are also informed at orientation days held for all first-time entry students.

The University Language Policy recognises the increased diversity of the student population. With the majority of UKZN students being isiZulu first language speakers, the University designed to re-acculturate the intellectual space and so in January 2014, introduced this compulsory isiZulu module for communication,” the executive director of corporate affairs Ashton Stanley Brodrick told the Daily Vox.

One student, Shanice Governder is doing her third year in speech language pathology, and says the module has helped her with the basics but she feels it wasn’t enough.

“As a speech language therapist the isiZulu vocabulary for simple objects and items is the only thing that has helped me when dealing with clients. With regards to Speaking and understanding the language, the module was of no help.

“I would’ve preferred to do isiZulu in relation to my degree not as a general introduction to the basics because that was of no help to me. This is because the majority of the patients seen by speech therapists are both Zulu and English speaking,” she said.

Asked if there were any challenges with the module during its course, Govender said “Doing the module for the first time in 2016 was challenging because of the magnitude of the classes and lack of tutors. 

“I felt as if they changed the module because of the failure rate, because in 2018 majority of the module was simple and most of the tests and exam was regurgitating the notes we had.”

Meanwhile, another student, Alyssa Michael says she felt as though the language was imposed on her and was not beneficial.

“It was a bit of a waste of time, because where I could’ve been doing a different module that complimented my degree, I had to do Zulu. It was sort of an inconvenience and it took up a lot of time. 

“I think that we should’ve had a range of languages to choose from, instead of being forced into learning a specific language,” she said.

Michael said understanding the lecturer was a challenge for her.

“Understanding the lecturer was a big challenge. He didn’t really know how to teach the language in English I guess. Another challenge was having to remember multiple dialogues and phrases,” Michael said.

IsiZulu is a widely spoken language in KwaZulu-Natal and UKZN says the institution’s decision was a response to national necessities such as inclusion in higher learning institutions.

“The University Language Policy recognises the increased diversity of the student population. With the majority of UKZN students being isiZulu first language speakers, the University designed to re-acculturate the intellectual space and so in January 2014, introduced this compulsory isiZulu module for communication. 

The UKZN language policy is a basic and critical building block for the elevation and ultimate intellectualization of isiZulu. Further, the decision is also a response to national imperatives such as inclusivity in Higher Education Institutions. It is a constitutional imperative to develop isiZulu and other indigenous African languages,” Brodrick said.

According to Brodrick said their decision was also based on the response from the students regarding the module they

“We’ve found that the majority of our students are willing to learn isiZulu. 

The number of students taking isiZulu as a major has increased substantially as a result of this decision. There has been an increase in the number of Masters and PhD dissertations that have been written in isiZulu. 

UKZN has developed an isiZulu National Corpus, and an isiZulu Spellchecker, an isiZulu Term Bank and a Mobile Compatible Zulu Lexicon as enablers in the teaching and learning process. These human language technology applications are a testimony to the progress that UKZN is making in developing isiZulu to achieve parity of esteem with English and Afrikaans as stated in the Constitution,” he said.

Featured image by Lizeka Maduna

1 COMMENT

  1. Since this is the university’s own initiative, self-funded students shouldn’t be forced to pay for a module they are required to take to fulfill a socio-political agenda smh

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