Three indigenous speaking mentors have come to join the Wits journalism department to help students write in their native tongues.
Palesa ‘Deejay’ Manaleng, Vusi Mchunu and Zulumathabo Zulu will be assisting the students in writing their stories in Sesotho and isiZulu. They have joined the department in the wake of the many transformation conversations happening across the Wits campuses.
As an indigenous knowledge holder and practitioner, Zulu says he is excited about the opportunity because language is the most important part of cultural knowledge. “Language is the means of transmitting knowledge” he said and, “One of the roles of the traditional African society is to facilitate the transmission of cultural and survival knowledge for the future generations.”
Vuvuzela reported earlier in the year that Wits University was in the process of tabling a multilingual policy that will incorporate African languages into broader campus policy. This means students and lecturers will be able to use IsiZulu, Sesotho and South African sign language as mediums of instruction in and out of the classroom.
Manaleng told Wits Vuvuzela that the challenge facing indigenous languages is that they don’t have a proper platform. “We have buildings full of books written in English but barely a truckload in indigenous languages, “she said.
“We have been taught that it is ok to know indigenous languages but better to know English and to think and communicate in English,” Manaleng warns that should this continue, we could read about indigenous languages as things that existed once a long time ago.
Anelisa Tuswa, one of the journalism students said that she is quite happy with the inclusion of African languages in general, but it would have been nice if we included other languages such as Xhosa were included, “I can only write in Xhosa and English.”
Head of Journalism School, Professor Anton Harber says that, “As part of our discussion on university transformation, we decided to experiment with multilingualism. One of the most fundamental problems with our news media is that there is very little print media in languages other than English and Afrikaans – and we need to play our role in addressing this. Apart from this, a journalist who is not multilingual will always struggle in this society – and journalism schools need to address this.”
Vuvuzela will be publishing more stories in isiZulu and seSotho in the following weeks until the end of this year.