18 August 2021 | Story Eugene Seegers
Rene de Klerk.

The University of the Free State, through its Academy for Multilingualism, is trying to bridge the chasm between the haves and have-nots in education.

One way in which this daunting task is being approached, is by using lesson voiceovers, where content created in English on Microsoft PowerPoint is then dubbed over into Sesotho, isiZulu, and Afrikaans. The Department of Political Science and Governance is playing a leading role in this initiative; they are busy creating multilingual lesson voiceovers for their first-year students.

“South Africa is the most unequal society in the world,” says Prof Hussein Solomon, head of the department. “Education is the great leveller as we strive to create a more equal society. Without access to materials in mother tongue, however, education fails the student, the university’s mission, and society.”

Prof Solomon’s department, in collaboration with the Academy for Multilingualism, uses master’s degree students to record the voiceovers. These students are both experienced in the subjects, as well as having a rapport with first-year students.

“Although my secondary educational background equipped me with the English language, as a junior student, I needed more support. I think the option of learning in my home language could have enhanced my understanding of academic content,” says Lumanyano Ngcayisa, one of the department’s master’s candidates. He believes that receiving course facilitation in one’s vernacular language enhances comprehension of academic content.

The voiceovers assist in African languages, but also add value to learning in general. According to Rene de Klerk, a recent master’s graduate, “Aside from the fact that it creates an opportunity for better understanding, it is also beneficial for students who benefit from a more interactive way of learning.”

This initiative forms part of the university’s Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP) and the Academy for Multilingualism’s implementation thereof. Other departments, such as Old and New Testament Studies (in the Faculty of Theology and Religion) and Criminology (the Humanities), are also venturing along this path.

Lumanyano Ngcayisa. (Photo: Supplied)

“Transformation takes time,” adds Ntombi Nhlapo, another master’s student in Political Science and Governance. “This is indeed a step in the right direction as an African university to decolonise learning pedagogies and to create a sense of inclusivity in the world of academia.” 

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