The revival of African indigenous languages in legal education, and development on global compatibility of graduates from African Tertiary institutions

Paper presented at the 2015 CLEA Conference in Glasgow

Khulekani Zondi
University of KwaZulu-Natal

The iniquitous effects of the apartheid system in South Africa directly resulted in the demeaning of African culture and the disrespect for indigenous languages. However the transition to a democratic society has brought about the revival of African indigenous languages. It is contended that African languages improve communication and enhance understanding for students at tertiary level of education.
Education and access to justice go hand in hand; hence it is postulated that the use of African languages in legal education can yield positive results in enhancing student education and ensuring that law may be understood by ordinary South African in their respective home languages, as a result bringing about access to justice.
This approach however flies in the face of perceptions which regard the global interconnectedness as a factor militating against the use of indigenous languages in legal education, as one can validly argue that the use of indigenous languages in legal education will not fit neatly into the global market. This is because of the various languages adopted as universal languages, none of these are indigenous languages.
This paper will investigate the revival of African indigenous languages in legal education and seeks to evaluate whether the use of indigenous languages can lead to enhanced teaching and learning, and furthermore, whether or not the use of indigenous languages will be a barrier to participation in the provision of global professional legal services.
This analysis will be placed in the context of the South African Constitution, which is founded on respect for the numerous languages and cultures that exist in South Africa. In section 29 and s 30 of the Constitution, respectively, the right of each citizen to receive education, and to use any language of their choice, is enshrined. These rights are subject to one qualification contained in s 29(2), in terms of which the claim for education in the language of one’s choice is qualified by the requirement that provision of education in the requested language must be “reasonably practicable”.
This paper will pay close attention to the rights found in s 29 and s 30 of the South African Constitution, which vest each student with a choice to elect a language in which they can receive education. This will be in the context of the language policy at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, which is a first step to recognize the aforementioned rights. Thereafter an analysis of the concept of global diversity will be carried out to ascertain whether or not there is a role that African languages can play in global competition in the provision of professional legal services.
Finally this paper will propose the compatibility between the phenomenon of the revival of African languages, which enhance student understanding and provide access to justice and the employment of such mother-tongue graduates, in the global professional sphere.

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