Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Humanities: Interdisciplinary Studies in Culture

Reader 1

Tony Crowley

Reader 2

David Roselli

Reader 3

Carmen R. Fought

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Rights Information

© 2012 Kelsey E. Figone


The South African Constitution recognizes 11 official languages and protects an individual’s right to use their mother-tongue freely. Despite this recognition, the majority of South African schools use English as the language of learning and teaching (LOLT). Learning in English is a struggle for many students who speak indigenous African languages, rather than English, as a mother-tongue, and the educational system is failing its students. This perpetuates inequality between different South African communities in a way that has roots in the divisions of South Africa’s past. An examination of the power of language and South Africa’s experience with colonialism and apartheid provides a context for these events, and helps clarify why inequality and division persist in the new “rainbow nation.” Mending these divisions and protecting human dignity will require a reevaluation of the purpose of education and the capabilities of South African citizens.

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Title Page