The Community of Practice for African Languages (COPAL) held its first meeting of the year at the University of Fort Hare campus in East London. The COPAL is an energetic forum of academics and language practitioners, passionate about the advancement of African Languages in the teaching and learning of Higher Education. The meeting was opened by Prof Fhulu Nekhwevha, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, University of Fort Hare, who welcomed the delegates and spoke of the importance of and the connection between African languages. Twenty-eight delegates from 13 various universities attended the meeting.
Members of the Community of Practice for African Languages (COPAL), who gathered at Fort Hare in March.
Dr Godfrey Mona, Director of the Language Centre at Fort Hare gave an overview of the African Language programmes offered as well as a presentation on the Language Policy of the university and the implementation challenges related to the policy. This provided an opportunity for delegates from other universities to share their experiences and learnings relating to language policy. Dr Godfrey Mona reported that an effective language policy provides a unique opportunity for the creation of an environment which is conducive to teaching and learning within a multilingual context. It also creates opportunities for the development and promotion of isiXhosa to a fully-fledged academic language.
The COPAL has initiated the establishment of regional networks between universities in the same area and that offer the same African languages. This network encourages regional collaboration and the sharing of resources and expertise. The Eastern Cape is the first regional network to be established under the leadership of Prof Nomsa Satyo, Head of Department, African Languages at Fort Hare. This will soon be followed by the Gauteng Region under the leadership of Prof Stanley Madonsela from UNISA.
Delegates at the COPAL meeting sharing their experiences with language policy.
The teaching and learning of African languages extends beyond the study of the humanities in universities, to the health sciences and education, where medical and education students are required to learn the conversational skills in an African language as part of their programme. As such, USAf was requested to extend an invitation to academics teaching on these programmes. The next meeting of the COPAL will be held at the University of the North West on 11 June 2019.