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Change the world


South African actress Dr Gcina Mhlophe will share the magic of storytelling at a Nelson Mandela University webinar this week to celebrate International Mother Language Day.

The legendary performance artist and educator will speak at the online launch of a new multilingual children’s story book on Thursday, February 25.

To mark International Mother Tongue Day, which was on Sunday February 21, Mandela University has a range of activities lined up:

  • The release of the digital children’s story book, Virus Fighters, at the webinar;
  • The release of a digital anthology of poetry, Moments in Mother Tongue, in three languages;
  • A series of bite size lessons in four languages.

The annual Unesco day aims to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and its 2021 theme is “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society”, particularly relevant in a country such as South Africa which has 11 official languages.

Mhlophe – who holds an honorary doctorate from Nelson Mandela University – will be joined by the university’s Arts, Culture and Heritage staff Nicki Rayepen and Ulagh Williams, and education professor Nokhanyo Mdzanga at the webinar.

The department of arts culture and heritage, in communication and marketing, said Virus Fighters had been an exciting project to work on in partnership with the University of Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania.

This multicultural series, proudly written in isiXhosa, Afrikaans, kiSwahili, French and English, caters to sharing the cornerstone messages of social and human behaviour to beat the virus, the department said, referring to COVID-19.

The University of Dar es Salaam has also been key in translating the books in kiSwahili to enable the distribution to go wider into the African continent. Additionally, French was also used to allow for more Western African coverage.

In Moments in Mother Tongue a team from the university has taken poems off the printed page and into the virtual realm by setting them out and adding visuals. This multilingual compilation was drawn from five previously published anthologies in various languages, the verse in English, isiXhosa and Afrikaans now will find new life online. This is also a first publishing from five student poets in the faculty.

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

Four lecturers in isiXhosa, French, isiZulu and Afrikaans recorded introductory lessons in these languages and these would also be available online.

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. 

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







Contact information
Miss Nicki-Ann Rayepen
Project Coordinater
Tel: 041 504 2793