Xhosa as medium of instruction in Higher Education: Pie in the sky?

  • Bertie Neethling


This article debates the possibility of introducing Xhosa as a Medium of Instruction (MoI) at tertiary level. It should be seen as an argumentative contribution that comprises the following methodological steps: (a) a look at the language stipulations in the Constitution, (b) a brief survey of the advocacy of Neville Alexander (2003, 2006) regarding the development of the indigenous languages to serve as MoI, (c) an analysis of the directives from educational authorities pertaining to this matter, and (d), a brief comparative view of the language policies of three universities in the Western Cape, i.e. Cape Town, Stellenbosch and the Western Cape, undertaken to assess how these institutions have responded to the directives from educational authorities to develop Xhosa as a language of teaching and learning at tertiary level. It is argued that, despite exciting and innovative developments around developing multilingualism on all three campuses, the matter around developing Xhosa as a medium of instruction in higher education is receiving very little attention and could at best be seen as a possible long-term goal. It is further argued that the introduction of Xhosa as a medium of instruction in the schooling system should precede attempts to introduce it as a medium of instruction in higher education.  

Author Biography

Bertie Neethling
Bertie Neethling is Emeritus Professor in the Xhosa Department at the University of the Western Cape. His main research interests are onomastics (study of names), cross-cultural communication, language acquisition, language policy, oral literature, and translation studies. E-mail: bneethling@uwc.ac.za