Multilingual education in South Africa: The role of publishers

Viv Edwards, Jacob Marriote Ngwaru

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The South African constitution and related legislative tools provide a supportive framework for multilingual education. Successful implementation, however, requires appropriate learning materials and questions remain as to the vision and commitment of publishers to producing them. Based on an analysis of currently available books for children and interviews with publishers and key figures in the book value chain, this paper explores both the educational rationale for African language publishing and the issues that constrain expansion. These issues include the heavy dependence on the schools market in a society where the majority of the population cannot or do not buy books, the consequences of the slow implementation of the government language-in-education policy, and the particular challenges faced by small publishers. It argues that in order to move beyond dependence on the schools market, publishers need to look critically at the content of the materials they are producing, methods of reaching the huge, untapped markets, and pricing strategies. It also considers differing opinions about the usefulness of translation in increasing the amount of reading material in African languages. Finally, it concludes that responsibility for finding a way out of the current impasse lies with both government and the publishing industry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-450
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • African languages
  • South Africa
  • children's books
  • education policy
  • publishing


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