SADTU celebrates International Mother Language Day

21 February 2017

The South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU) joins the world in celebrating February 21, International Mother Language Day.

This United Nations day supports mother language and multilingual education with its overall objective to contribute to promoting Global Citizenship education. The day is celebrated in 2017 under the theme: "Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education.''

The Day also supports Goal 4.6 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): "Ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy"

SADTU would like to use this day to reiterate its call for indigenous languages to be used as a medium of instruction in our schools.

The Union has been making this call since the 2014 Congress. The Congress noted that English as a medium of instruction was not assisting learners who are not English speakers. Learners learn better in their home language - African
language; for our country's literacy levels to improve, learners should be taught in their home languages. The Congress then resolved that:

  • African languages should be developed and accepted as medium of instruction, especially in the Foundation Phase.
  • A uniform policy should be developed and should be implemented by all provinces and districts.
  • All schools should be provided with human resources with regards to teaching in that language

SADTU believes that language is a form of communication that is deeply connected to ideas of culture and identity. Its purpose is to promote respect for the rights and interests of the global linguistic and cultural diversity, and multilingualism. Failure to teach the majority of learners in their mother tongue, reflects broader societal inequality. In countries where learners are taught in their mother tongue, they enjoy better learning outcomes.

Countries like Ethopia have a local language policy which combines, Amharic and English, in turn has yield lower drop-out rates and higher retention rates.

The lack of quality mother tongue teaching in our schools is denying our children access to quality education. Respect for the use of mother tongue language is imperative if the country is to deliver on the promise of inclusive and quality education for all by 2030.

We urge the government to strengthen its efforts in ensuring mother tongue learning and instruction. This is crucial for quality education and for learners to reach their full potential.

ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat


General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke: 082 783 2968
Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana Dolopi: 082 709 5651
Media Officer, Nomusa Cembi: 082 719 5157