PhD in Setswana: a first for NWU's campus in Mahikeng

Issued by North West University
North-West, Oct 18, 2019

The North-West University's (NWU's) campus in Mahikeng conferred the first ever Setswana PhD in the history of the Department of Setswana since its establishment about 39 years ago.

A Doctor of Philosophy in Languages and Literature in Setswana was conferred on Eileen Elizabeth Pooe, an educator, lecturer and head of the Department of Setswana during the Spring Graduation ceremony on 17 October 2019.

Her thesis was conducted entirely in Setswana and was titled: "Taoto ya Phetsolelo ya Mhudi ka Sol T. Plaatje mo Setswaneng jaaka mmusetsagae wa dikwalo tsa Maaforika tsa Seesimane".

Her thesis controversially postulates that Mhudi, an African novel written in English by Sol Plaatje, is for all intents and purposes a Setswana novel by a Motswana, about Batswana, and should be repatriated into Setswana for the benefit of Plaatje's people, the Batswana.

Dr Pooe has contributed a lot to the growth of the department and introduced a popular Setswana honours programme in translation and interpreting, maintaining Setswana as language of tuition and research in higher education.

She also served as a member of the Pan South African Language Board's Arts and Culture Committee for Setswana terminology development.

Dr Pooe is a South African Translators' Institute accredited translator and practitioner and boasts the National Library Award as Best Woman Writer of language books for OBE and CAPS.

Her illustrious career as an indigenous language author include familiar titles such as Le re Tlhabetse, a learner book and teachers' guide series for Grade 7 to 9; Platinum Segarona, a learner book and teachers' guide series for Grade 10 to 12; and Re a Ipela, a learner book and teachers' guide series for Grade 11 to 12.

In addition to her published set of works, Dr Pooe also translated the Setswana section of the South African Multilingual Dictionary for Schools and developed addendums for prescribed novels for Grade 12. These include Masego by Gomolemo Mokae (2009), Omphile Umphi Modise by Monyaise, DPS (2009), and Ntlhomole Mmutlwa by OR Lebelo (2016).

Professor Shole Shole, Dr Pooe's promoter, says this is indeed a historical achievement.

"This is a fitting tribute to the pioneering professors Setshedi and Malope, the deputy vice-chancellor and vice-chancellor of the former UNIBO, who advocated for the use of Setswana - and African languages in general - as mediums of learning, tuition and research in higher education," he adds.

The NWU has previously conferred honorary doctorates on renowned Setswana authors Dr Joseph Ntsime and Prof Racious Malope.