UCT launches Khoekhoegowab course, plans to make it fourth language option

Starting this month, you can learn the indigenous Khoisan language Khoekhoegowab at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Professor Mbulungeni Madiba, co-ordinator of UCT’s Multilingualism Education Project at the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED), said the first course runs from May to August.

Extra-mural studies director Medee Rall said the bigger plan was for Khoekhoegowab to become a fourth language at UCT.

The announcement was made at CHED’s Africa Day celebration on May 21 which also marked the United Nations International Year of Indigenous Languages.

Madiba said MEP’s introduction of short courses in isiXhosa, and latterly Afrikaans, has taken off among the UCT community of staff and students.

‘Celebrating the languages’

“We cannot celebrate things that are African without celebrating the languages. One-third of the world’s 6 000 languages are spoken in Africa,” the professor said at their most recent certificate presentation.

Retired University of Namibia scholar, Professor Wilfrid Haacke, a Khoekhoegowab language expert, said that “today there are about 167 000 speakers of Khoekhoegowab. Roughly 39% are Nama and 60% are Damara.”

Khoisan heritage activist, Bradley van Sitters, said at CHED’s Africa Day celebration that many of the continent’s indigenous languages, such as the Khoisan’s Khoekhoegowab, spoken by the Nama, Damara and Haiom ethnic groups, were endangered.

Colonialism was one of the main causes of this decimation, said Van Sitters.

“The indigenous languages and knowledge were destroyed. The language that was once spoken here is no longer spoken…

“Before this place… there were people living here,” he said, referring to the CHED’s headquarters in UCT’s Huri‡oaxa (Hoerikwaggo) building.

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