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The significance and value of indigenous languages was once again highlighted during a conversation Arts and Culture minister Nathi Mthethwa had with Nelson Mandela University students on Friday (26 April).

Minister Mthethwa was the University to touch base with students who are present and past recipients of the Department of Arts and Culture Language Bursary. Mandela University was one of the first beneficiaries of the Language Bursary Project at its inception in 2004, and has continued its partnership with the DAC since 2015.

The bursary programme has been part of an ongoing initiative by the DAC to promote indigenous languages, with a particular emphasis on the development of African languages, and covers both undergraduate and postgraduate students enrolled in Language studies in the Departments of Language & Literature and Applied Language Studies.

During the gathering at the South Campus Council Chambers, numerous views were shared on how South African society, with the leadership of government, civil society and traditional leaders, could highlight the importance of one’s mother tongue.

“I’m very happy to see that this investment is yielding such good results here,” said Minister Mthethwa.

The minister said the department is following up to track the bursary recipients since 2004, looking at how the initiative and their studies have shaped their career paths.

“We need to know who are the recipients from 2004 and where they are now. We need to see that so we can see what there is for [those who pursue language studies, particularly indigenous languages],” he said.

“Tracking that and showcasing it also helps to buck the narrative that there is no space for indigenous languages. We need you to be part of the change and transformation of the language arena.

“There is a lot that needs to be undone in terms of the thinking of our people when it comes to indigenous languages.”

To date, 150 Mandela University students have benefited from the bursary, which has paid out more than R3-million to the students.

This includes 85 Masters students, 70 Honours students and 19 undergraduate students, with many going on to Doctoral studies and gaining employment in their respective studies.

This year, the University has four undergraduate students receiving R7200 each, 25 Honours students receiving R20 000 each and over 40 Masters students receiving R10 000 each.

Some of the beneficiaries include Bianca Potgieter (Honours Language Studies), Azra Rajah (Language Studies undergraduate), Avukile Jeke (Masters in IsiXhosa), Ntsikelelo Williams and Nosicelo Dongwana (IsiXhosa lecturer).

Jeke and Williams recently graduated their Honours in IsiXhosa and Potgieter’s studies look at aspects lost in translation between African language and English bible interpretations.

Jeke said he pursued an honours degree in IsiXhosa because he wanted to teach the language as a means to preserve it in its purest form.

“It pains me that our mother tongue is dying. People speak it, but not in its purest form. This concerns me because language is a fundamental aspect of who someone is. If you lose that, you also lose your identity,” he said.

The University has been working to grow its indigenous language offering and has begun introducing Sign Language.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777