University of KwaZulu-Natal’s students’ perceptions and perspectives on bilingual instruction at the institution.
Madlala, Nolwandle Dumisa.
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Theories regarding the role of language in education state that if a student is taught in a language they do not understand adequately, they will find it difficult or impossible to understand the meaning of academic content. The democratic government suggests that the current nationally official languages of tuition continue to be some of the main barriers to epistemological access for black South African students in public institutions of higher education. In an effort to reform this, they have recommended that these institutions include at least one major provincial indigenous South African language in their institutional language policies and make concentrated efforts to further develop that language as an official language of academia. There have been both celebratory and disapproving reactions to these recommendations from different stakeholders, including tertiary students. The University of KwaZulu-Natal is one of the very few institutions who have heeded the call by including isiZulu in their language policy. In order to explore this university’s Black African students’ perspectives and perceptions of bilingual instruction at their institution, this study held individual open-ended interviews with fourteen purposefully selected students at the Edgewood and Pietermaritzburg campuses. Thematic analysis was employed to analyse the interview transcriptions. All the participants’ perspectives on bilingual instruction appeared to be intertwined with their perceptions of language use and esteem in wider social and economic contexts. The students from Edgewood had been undertaking an Honours degree that was officially making use of bilingual instruction. Their perspectives were only positive, and they spoke comprehensively about the pedagogical benefits they had perceived in their experiences. The Pietermaritzburg students had no experience with bilingual instruction at the institution. While some of them disapproved this inclusion of isiZulu, some expressed support, but they stated that this inclusion should be limited to the lower phases of study as a remedial means to improve students’ proficiency in English.