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Nelson Mandela University will be hosting a series of language-related events throughout the course of the week, headlined by the virtual launch of a children’s “Virus Fighters” series in five languages and featuring storyteller Dr Gcina Mhlophe, today (Thursday, 25 February).

The Mother Tongue Day celebrations form part of the institution’s transformative efforts towards social inclusivity and multilingualism.

The legendary performance artist, who is a Mandela University honorary doctorate recipient, will share the virtual webinar stage and magic of storytelling with the University’s Arts, Culture and Heritage staff Nicki Rayepen and Ulagh Williams, and education professor Nokhanyo Mdzanga.

The story book series Virus Fighters has seen the University work across the continent with the University of Dar-Es-Salaam in Tanzania, which was key in translating the books in kiSwahili to enable the distribution to go wider across the African continent.

Additionally, French was also used to reach additional mainly West African audiences.

It has also been written in isiXhosa, Afrikaans and English, and aims to share the cornerstone messaging of social and human behaviour needed to beat COVID-19.

SABC journalist Lerato Thipa will moderate the webinar, and Mandela University Professor of Education Nokhanyo Mdzanga will give helpful tips to encourage multilingualism at home, work, and school. (See webinar details at end).

In addition, to mark the annual Unesco Day with its 2021 theme of “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society”, the University will also be:

  • Releasing a digital anthology of poetry, Moments in Mother Tongue, in three languages; and
  • Hosting a series of bite-sized lessons in four languages.

Moments in Mother Tongue

In Moments in Mother Tongue is a multilingual compilation of poems drawn from five previously published anthologies in various languages, to give the verse in English, isiXhosa and Afrikaans new life online. This is also a first time the work of five student poets has been published.

Mini Language Lessons

Unesco notes that one language disappears on average every two weeks, “taking with it an entire cultural intellectual heritage”. To highlight the importance of language, Mandela University is also offering free mini-language lessons.

In partnership with the Faculty of Humanities’ Department of Applied Language Studies it has produced pre-recorded videos in in isiXhosa, French, isiZulu and Afrikaans to enable you to start basic conversations across languages in the Eastern Cape and South Africa. 

The initiative was inspired by our namesake, Nelson Mandela who said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart”. 

The videos will be released individually across all social media platforms over the period of International Mother Tongue Day celebrations and will be available for free viewing on the University YouTube channel

The webinar is at 12:30 on Thursday, February 25 on MS Teams. Contact or for more information.



Contact information
Ms Amy Howley
Public Relations Intern
Tel: 041 504 4079