“All in our Faculty community should feel welcome and ‘at home’,” said Interim Dean Gregory Hussey in his introduction to Health Sciences’ staff and students at the launch of its first Language Festival on 13 May. He explained how language in our country had historically been divisive, and a tool to disempower people, particularly when it came to learning and accessing health.
“Language is also a powerful tool to break down barriers and build respect and understanding,“ he added.
Explaining the theme of the festival “Health for all, Home for all”,” he said the focus would be on how language can be used to foster a culture of respect within a diverse community.
The Faculty is highly diverse. Many of its students and staff come from different backgrounds, speak a range of South African and other African languages, but use English for teaching and learning.
The importance of an inclusive language policy for facilitating learning and teaching among students, and its integral role in transformation, was expressed by both Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price and Deputy Dean of the Centre for Higher Education (CHED) Prof Mbulungeni Madiba.
Opening the festival, Dr Price said that in the context of the country’s history, each member of our university would be actively encouraged to become conversationally competent in another African language. This would enrich our knowledge and understanding of, and promote respect, for other cultures. Dr Price congratulated Health Sciences for initiating the Language Festival.
The opening ceremony was a celebratory event, with colourful posters displaying greetings of all South African Languages in speech bubbles, including South African Sign Language. Poetry, song, music and dance delighted the appreciative audience.
Events in the month-long programme include the launch of the Writing Centre, a language symposium, an Amazing Race, and an Africa Day event with traditional dress and Quiz competitions.
The festival is part of a comprehensive initiative aimed at ensuring inclusiveness in the Faculty, and facilitating the process of transformation.