FunDza wishes our chairperson, Dr Xolisa Guzula, huge congratulations on being awarded her doctorate in education. We are so proud of the work that she is doing to promote literacy in our country. This degree, we know, is the result of many hours of labour, research, deep thinking and immersive caring practice with young people. She has completed it with so much love too. Halala, Xoli! Halala! We are so proud of you!

Here is a tribute to Xoli, written by her supervisor, Associate Professor Carolyn McKinney at the University of Cape Town.


It is an honour to speak at this wonderful graduation celebration today of Dr Xolisa Guzula, Xoli as she is known to so many!

Without any doubt, Xoli is one of a kind, an exceptional human being who brings her passion, wisdom, leadership and seemingly inexhaustible energy to the many roles that she plays: mother, educator, lecturer, facilitator, writer, translator, storyteller, supervisor, research scholar and very significantly, multilingual language and literacy activist.

I was very fortunate to have been introduced to Xoli by my dear colleague Heather Jacklin not long after I started working in the UCT School of Education in 2009. At the time Xoli was working hard at PRAESA with Ntombi Mahobe, Neville Alexander and Carole Bloch. We agreed that she would pick up her masters degree studies again and I would supervise her research project. Working with Xoli, I soon became determined that the masters project would not be an end but rather the beginning of her journey towards becoming a renowned language and literacy scholar and a leader in her field. I loved hearing from Xoli about the projects she was involved in, the challenges and successes. But I remember vividly the day when Xoli came for a supervision session after speaking to a school principal about the WCED withdrawal of support for the Lang Transformation Plan to extend isiXhosa medium of instruction in primary school and implement a vision of bilingual education. I believe that the devastation and disappointment of that moment and time has fuelled for both of us a passion to show what bi and multilingual children can do and to expose language policies which benefit largely white middle-class children and are ultimately racist.

Xoli has been involved in numerous innovative literacy projects, from the Vulindlela reading club in Langa to the early days of Nalibali, the Phemba Mfundi writing camps with the NMI, and as part of her PhD, the Stars of Today Literacy Club# Although I made it clear to Xoli that I was keen for her to enrol for a PhD after her masters, I really admired the fact that she felt she had more work to do ‘on the ground’, moving from PRAESA to work with Brian Ramadiro and colleagues at the Nelson Mandela Institute for Rural Education at Fort Hare.

A true highlight for me and a time of intense learning, was when I visited Xoli in East London, travelling to Qunu for a Phemba Mfundi writing camp week-end. Watching her in action as she trained facilitators as well as working with children was extraordinary. I saw so many theoretical principles of language and literacy pedagogy come to life in a way I had never seen before – multiliteracies, critical literacy, flexible or dynamic bilingual education and loving interactions, seamlessly woven together. I have since had the privilege of sharing these experiences with Xoli many times, not least in the Stars of Today.
The challenge for Xoli was to describe the pedagogy and the language and literacy practices of this extraordinary tapestry, to analyse it, to draw out the principles and to theorise it.

Over the years of Xoli’s PhD, we have collaborated in so many ways – we have co-presented at conferences, we have co-authored, we have run school-based parent workshops, we have team taught courses, launched the bua-lit language and literacy collective. We have shared travel adventures to London, Birmingham, and Rio de Janeiro. We have commiserated, problem-solved and strategized, prepared meals and washed dishes. And most importantly – we have laughed and had so much fun!

The formal citation of Xoli’s PhD reads:

Dr Guzula’s thesis analyses the rich meaning-making practices of emergent bilingual isiXhosa-English speaking children in an after-school literacy club when they are enabled to work collaboratively using both their isiXhosa and English resources and a range of modes.

The findings challenge the monolingual and print bias in language and literacy education and have significant implications for bilingual literacy development for the majority of children in South Africa, and in contexts of indigenous multilingualism further afield, as well as for language in education policy.

I want to quote briefly from the external examiners’ reports on Xoli’s thesis. Prof Vuyokazi Nomlomo (Uni Zululand) wrote:
“Ms Guzula’s thesis is an invaluable contribution to the body of knowledge on literacy teaching and learning in multilingual contexts. The candidate has to be applauded for the originality of her thesis, especially with regard to the establishment of the STLC# which served not only as a multilingual and multimodal space, but also as an intervention space that supported children to navigate the third spaces as they constructed knowledge by using different languages.”

Prof Angela Creese (Uni of Stirling) wrote:
“This is an extremely engaging and well-written thesis. Indeed, it is outstanding. I enjoyed reading it tremendously and was inspired from start to finish (…) The research is child-centred and brings out the joy of children learning and engaging. Reclaiming ‘love’ as an educational endeavour, we are presented with children’s desire to be creative and to learn. The centrality of ‘listening to children’ transfers the research from the exploration of individuals to the power of human relations, as people work to support one another rather than compete.”

Xoli Uyinkwenkwezi enkulu! Uyinkuthazo kuthi sonke!
Halala sisi wam!

Carolyn McKinney
PhD Supervisor