23 October 2018

South Africa: Nompumelelo Kapa, First Academic to Write Thesis in Isixhosa in 102 Years At Fort Hare

Nompumelelo Kapa is the first person in the University of Fort Hare's 102 year history to have written and published a PhD thesis in isiXhosa. Dr Kapa received her PhD in Literature and Philosophy for her thesis in isiXhosa, one of South Africa's official languages.

Nompumelelo Kapa is the first person in the 102 year's history of the University of Fort Hare in South Africa to have written and published a PhD thesis in isiXhosa. Early last year, Dr Hleze Kunju of Rhodes University wrote his doctoral thesis in isiXhosa, also a remarkable and historic achievement. It was Rhodes University's first isiXhosa authored PhD thesis.

Kapa received a doctorate in Literature and Philosophy at the University of Fort Hare. The title of her thesis, Aspects of Culture and the Humour that Influence Naming in Selected IsiXhosa Texts: What's in a Name? was written in isiXhosa. Kapa, a high school teacher at the Beaconhurst High, teaches Xhosa and is vocal about preserving her mother tongue. The topic of decolonisation of education has been a huge point of debate in South Africa.

Professor Nomsa Satyo, Fort Hare African languages department Head, supervised Kapa. He said, "This really was a thought-provoking journey. This, indeed, is a milestone. It is the first of its kind! It gives us great pleasure therefore to welcome her as someone who put our university on the research map. For many decades, Africa has been the only place in the world where most children are taught in the language that is not their own. This thesis places isiXhosa at the centre as far as education is concerned."

Kapa said, "I feel very proud that I am the first one to make history at Fort Hare to write in isiXhosa. It is indeed a beautiful experience. We are talking about transforming and decolonising Africa, so isiXhosa should be considered. We also want to produce more isiXhosa writers, journalists, translators and others. IsiXhosa has become stifled, with people finding it fashionable to write and speak in other languages, especially English."

Supporting indigenous languages in academia

Talk is cheap. When it comes to discussions on decolonisation of Africa, much is said without action, especially in the academic arena. African languages are not used in the academic setting as compared to English and French. Unfortunately, the less we use our languages, the more we fail to develop them. With Kapa's achievement, hopefully there would be a gradual use of African languages in South African universities.

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