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The implementation of tertiary education language policy: a case study of the language policy of the University of Kwazulu-Natal Pietermaritzburg Campus.

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Indigenous African languages have been marginalized for many years, and as a way to redress language inequalities and imbalances, mother tongue language use has been introduced in institutions of higher learning in South Africa. The South African Constitution promotes the use of all twelve official South African languages and Chapter 1 Section 6 of the Constitution guides the language policy implementation. In this regard, South Africa is a multilingual country and all languages should have equal status. However, currently South African languages do not enjoy equal status with English. Universities have therefore introduced multilingual modes of instruction to improve teaching and learning, as well as throughput rates. This study aimed at understanding the attitudes and perceptions of the University of KwaZulu-Natal staff and students on the university’s language policy in relation to teaching and learning on the Pietermaritzburg campus and to analyze the implementation of the policy. The study used a qualitative research approach, which consisted of a case study. In-depth interviews were used to collect the primary data from the key informants who comprised of the director of the language board, the dean and head of the School of Arts, three lecturers teaching IsiZulu 101 non-mother tongue, five tutors of IsiZulu 101 non-mother tongue and fifteen students registered for IsiZulu 101 non-mother tongue. The students were divided into three focus groups, each consisting of five students. The study used thematic analysis to analyze the data. Initial findings from the study revealed that students felt that they do not need to study IsiZulu; instead, they mentioned that it should be a personal choice because most of them believe that they will not be using IsiZulu once they have completed their undergraduate degree as they are not all from the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It was also found that not all lecturers were receptive to the implementation of the policy within the university. However, the continuous work that is being done by the University Language and Planning Development Office shows that there are new developments and systems that are continuously being put into place to further improve the implementation of the language policy.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.