Language as a form of violence and assimilation: stakeholders’ views of Silozi as a medium of instruction and learning in the Zambezi region of Namibia

The study explores the impact of the current language policy in schools in the Zambezi region of Namibia. It contributes to a paradigm shift away from current debates that attempt to constitute particular languages as mediums of instruction in contexts of previous colonial rule where several education systems and languages were in play. Language is both a form of empowerment and disempowerment. During colonial rule, language was explicitly used to subjugate and conform learners to the demands of colonisers and simultaneously empower the colonisers by forcing their foreign language(s) to become official languages. The study suggests that the continued use of Silozi in the post-independence period has the potential to perpetuate similar effects on local populations of the Zambezi region.

Teachers, parents, former learners, and policymakers were interviewed about their views of Silozi as a medium of instruction. Equally, explored their views on its impact on school children’s learning, teaching, and home lives. The study focuses on how Silozi is used to better connect to the official medium of instruction and how the relegation of their mother tongues to third language status impacts their everyday living and learning. In doing so, it strengthens the political economy analysis of the education system in Namibia’s Zambezi region and sensitises readers to the local plight of mother tongue languages in the region.

The project contributes to a better understanding of the linguistic challenges for emergent learners learning in an unfamiliar language (Silozi) and then using this language to access and acquire English as the official medium of instruction. In addition, the study analysed the articulated and embodied language ideologies and beliefs of school principals, teachers, and parents in the Zambezi region tied to the socio-historical and political context of the area. This was done whilst considering the historical background of the current language policy for Schools in Namibia and its limitations.

Research Team

Mr Kelvin Mubiana Katukula, School of Education, University of Namibia (Principal investigator)
Dr Beata Ndahafa Set, School of Education, University of Namibia (Co-Investigator)
Prof Azeem Badroodien, School of Education, University of Cape Town (Mentor)

Research Fellow

Kelvin Mubiana Katukula

Kelvin Mubiana Katukula