Mother-tongue education in South Africa: A highly contested terrain of the 21st century

  • Medicine Magocha
  • Davie Elias Mutasa
  • Johannes Ratsikana Rammala


Mother-tongue education is considered a waste of time if the interests of people, plan, power and business are not aligned. In this article, suggestions are made regarding the way forward for African academics implementing mother-tongue education in primary and secondary schools, as well as in colleges and universities. Mothertongue education has been debated extensively, but with little effect on language policies. Ineffective efforts to introduce mother-tongue education have negatively affected people’s lives. In Tanzania, for example, the imposition of Kiswahili in the educational sector has done an untold amount of as-yet-undocumented damage to the local indigenous languages of that country. The imposition of Kiswahili overlooked the value of mothertongue-based multilingual education and has certainly confined and limited people. Mother-tongue education is highly contested in Africa due to the discourse of multilingualism. Africa is linguistically diverse, with over 2 000 languages. Multilingualism refers to the plethoric nature of languages in one nation, for example, South Africa has 11 official languages and Nigeria has more than 200 widely spoken languages. Language policy makers and strategic language planners should avoid being overconfident when looking at language because it is a landscape that can change at any time.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2305-1159
print ISSN: 0257-2117