Unisa has its first student graduate to obtain a PhD in Setswana recently.
Dr Justice Kobue Legodi said he studied at Unisa’s main campus in Pretoria for his doctoral thesis.
His thesis applied cultural semiotics to analyse the process and significance of the cultural portioning of beasts of slaughter, drawing comparisons with similar practices elsewhere in the world.
Legodi told Rekord that he believed that students understood better when they were taught in their mother tongue or indigenous language.
“Students understand concepts quickly and clearly when lectured in a mother tongue,” he said.
Legodi said through obtaining his PhD, he noticed how original meanings were not lost through explanations given in an indigenous language.
“I was able to understand my supervisor and having no problem of translating my research findings into another language.”
Legodi said if educational teachings were transmitted into indigenous languages, he found that solutions were easily found and new concepts were revealed without delay.
“When I was doing research in Setswana, I noticed that the data remained original and that the scientific vocabulary in Setswana expanded. This made it all the more interesting and inviting to do further research,” he said.
Legodi said he also believed that most students would cope far better when taught in their mother tongue, for they would not have any problem of language and concepts or theory.
Legodi said, however, he faced many challenges when completing his PhD.
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“Most sources are written in English and few are in the mother tongue.”
He said the shortage of written sources at institutions such as the national house of traditional leaders and the department of arts and culture was a major obstacle as he was unable to find publications or archival materials which aligned with his research topic.
Legodi had to resort to using old historical documents, in addition to visiting different villages, traditional leaders and elders, to collect data.
He said learning in your own mother tongue would also be encouraging for the young generation to know themselves and have “self-esteem”.
“Younger generations will have no problem in thinking and creating or researching in their indigenous language.”
He said this would enrich their culture and improve their culture scientifically.
Legodi said he also believed that most students were university dropouts, not because they were slow learners, however, found a foreign language more difficult to grasp.
Legodi expressed his pride at being the first candidate to complete a PhD in Setswana at Unisa, and encouraged others to pursue research in their respective indigenous languages.
Legodi’s supervisor, Professor Daniel Matjila of African languages at Unisa, described him as a committed and co-operative student who always kept in touch with his supervisors, but mainly worked independently, which allowed him to complete his PhD in three years.
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Matjila said prior to that, Legodi obtained a master’s degree in Setswana, which focused on the semiotics of movement and the kinesthetics of Setswana traditional dances.
Matjila pointed out that, since 1974, Setswana has been at the forefront of introducing African languages as languages of teaching, learning and research at higher education institutions.
“Even though some other African languages still face notable obstacles, there are numerous external examiners and native Setswana scholars who are qualified and competent enough to ensure the quality of Unisa’s master’s and doctoral research output,” said Matjila.
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