n South African Journal of Higher Education - 'English only'? Creating linguistic space for African indigenous knowledge systems in higher education : perspectives on higher education

Volume 18, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



African indigenous knowledge systems (AIKSs) are historically linked to indigenous African languages. Yet efforts to spearhead the infiltration by AIKS into the discursive domain of the South African (higher) education system are often based on the assumption that this can be achieved without challenging the dominance of colonial languages in the education sector. This assumption is indebted to an implicit conception of the nature of language and its relation to knowledge, culture and power. It presupposes that languages are neutral and interchangeable, and that form and content are strictly separable. These assumptions are challenged by drawing on academic debates in a variety of philosophical and related fields. It is argued that AIKS can only be successfully spearheaded in a predominantly Eurocentric higher education system, and be made relevant to society at large, via increased use of indigenous languages.

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