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Implementing Namibia’s language policy: a case study of classroom practices and language beliefs in rural and urban Namibian schools

Ashikuti, S. (2019) Implementing Namibia’s language policy: a case study of classroom practices and language beliefs in rural and urban Namibian schools. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00088438


This thesis explores the enactment of Namibia’s national language-in-education policy (LiEP) in junior primary schools with particular attention to the differences between urban and rural contexts. Namibia is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country marked by extensive linguistic diversity. At independence in 1990, Namibia adopted English as the official language. With regard to education, the government established the Language Policy for Schools in Namibia, which states that “the mother tongue/predominant local language should be the medium of instruction (MoI) at Junior Primary level - Grades 1-3” (MEC, 1993, p.2). English is a compulsory school subject throughout the school system, and from the fourth grade until tertiary level, it is the MoI (MEC, 1993). While the important role of indigenous languages in education is recognized in this LiEP, the existing literature suggests that enacting mother-tongue education (MTE) policies in sub- Saharan Africa remains a challenge. This study adopted an ethnographically informed case study approach, and questionnaires, interviews and classroom observations were used to explore policy interpretation and appropriation at classroom level and to examine teachers’ and principals’ belief about the role of English and indigenous languages in education. In total, 173 participants completed the questionnaire; 22 participants were interviewed and two classrooms (one urban and one rural) were purposively selected for observation. The study found that LiEP interpretation, appropriation and enactment differed between urban and rural contexts. Linguistic diversity at classroom level, exposure to the MoI, and availability of teaching resources were key factors in policy engagement. While some schools had adopted the MTE policy, some, especially in urban areas, had adopted English as a medium of instruction (EMI) policies. The adoption of EMI policies was resultant from language beliefs amongst teachers and parents that favoured English, unavailability of indigenous language resources including teachers. At classroom level, however, language practices were characterised by the adoption of a translanguaging pedagogy as a means of mitigating the communication barrier between teachers and learners. As a result, teachers transformed national and institutional LiEPs at classroom level in order to meet their own and their learners’ linguistic needs.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Curdt-Christiansen, X.-L. and King, B.
Thesis/Report Department:Institute of Education
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Institute of Education
ID Code:88438


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