Pioneers of Mother Language
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Pioneers of Mother Language

21 February is International Mother Language Day – observed since February 2000 to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. The 2018 theme is : “Linguistic diversity and multilingualism count for sustainable development.


To celebrate this day, we would like to pay homage to Africans who have made a significant contribution to the development of South African literature in all official languages.

Here is a list of the pioneers of  Mother Language:

  • Professor Mazisi Kunene 

Professor Mazisi Kunene is a world-renowned author of majestic poems. He wrote and published poetry in isiZulu and then translated his poems into English. In 1993, UNESCO made Kunene Africa's poet laureate and in 2005 he was awarded the title of South African National Poet Laureate in acknowledgement of his dedication to “foregrounding and championing” African literature and languages.


  • Dr Hleze Kunju

 Dr Hleze Kunju is the man behind Rhodes University's first PhD thesis. Dr Hleze Kunju’s doctoral thesis has been described as a milestone for isiXhosa academic writing and is an inspiration in the quest for a decolonised and transformed education system in South Africa.


  • Brian Ramadiro 

Brian Ramadiro is doing ground-breaking work in rural schools in the Eastern Cape, empowering teachers and pupils in that province's schools. Ramadiro has been working in the field of education for almost 20 years. He started in adult education, moved on to youth work, and later to education policy research. Ramadiro and his team have been able to redesign classrooms, train and provide classroom support to more than 100 teachers and source and create materials that work in overcrowded, bilingual classrooms using isiXhosa and English. 


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