Education in South Africa + isiZulu Vocabulary

In South Africa, June is a month that symbolizes heritage and progression. It’s a time when we get to reflect on how far we have come as a country. To be honest… we are a country that is very blessed to have been granted a new beginning. We have indeed come full circle! In isiZulu June is called uNhlangulana and on the 16th day of this month, we celebrate Youth Day!! In any community, the youth is undoubtedly the future but in our country, this saying applies in the most literal sense. The youth of South Africa living in 1976 changed the course literally and afforded us the South Africa that is free and democratic which we call home. We owe them recognition and sincere gratitude. They not only fought for human rights but for an education that serves all of its people in fairness and equality. As they reminded South Africa back in 1976 about the importance of Education they continue to remind us every year.

Education is important and necessary for growth! In isiZulu we have a proverb that says “Imfundo ayigugelwa” meaning no one is ever too old for education which is the opposite of “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” because we realize that “the grass is greener where you water it”.  The culture of education fits so beautifully in our country because even though we are made of 11 different tribes (along with their languages) we are an obedient people and being together has forced us to be. We learn about each other in our communities, in our schools, in our cities and in our malls because in South Africa, you will hardly meet a person that speaks less than 2 languages! We are so integrated with each other we even share words across our native languages.


It is always important to know what type of education to pass on to the people around us. Sometimes what we believe is correct can in fact be developed or altered into something a little more correct. We as the human race have to keep developing and maturing with time, perhaps not as quickly as our technology but mild improvements are always necessary nevertheless. The original youth day fought for many things but the integration of people and education was its main focus. This means I can now be educated wherever I would like to be- provided I fit the academic qualifications and can find a way to finance it. This also means I can be wherever I would like to be in the country and be friends with people who have the same interests as me.  In the Zulu culture, education was historically in a verbal format: meaning the one who had the knowledge would pass it on in spoken education rather than in the written education format we know today. Education is a human right (we may not always be conscious of it) but we are a solid product of an education (learnt behaviour and mannerisms included) that has been passed on to us from all spheres of our lives.  Imfundo iyisibusiso esihle – Education is a beautiful blessing that we should never take for granted! So use up every chance and platform you may have to educate yourself as much as you can, all the time! Until we meet again in our schools with obhuti nosisi bethu (our brothers and sisters)… and for everyone who is South African – Happy Youth Day! Let’s make them proud and may their lives and work not perish in vain!

Some more commonly shared isiZulu vocabulary:

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