Language Policy at the University of Stellenbosch

learning languages constitution rights
Wednesday, 18 November, 2015 - 10:45

The FW de Klerk Foundation slams the proposal by the rector of the Stellenbosch University that Afrikaans will no longer have an equal position with English


The FW de Klerk Foundation has taken note, with shock and disappointment, of the letter and annexure of Prof Wim De Villiers to the Senate of the University of Stellenbosch. The letter makes it clear that if the Rector's proposals are approved by the University Council on 30 November 2015, Afrikaans will no longer have an equal position with English at the University of Stellenbosch. So after having been assured only a few years ago that Afrikaans would be the default language, and after assurances only last year that the language would enjoy equal status with English, it now appears that Afrikaans is, for all practical purposes on its way out as a language of tuition. Under these circumstances, we must ask what confidence we can place on any assurances by the university administration?

The university administration has evidently bowed to the demands of the Open Stellenbosch movement - an organisation that apparently has a core membership of fewer than 50 people. It is incomprehensible that the university administration should so easily have swept aside the reasonable interests, concerns and rights of Afrikaans-speaking students on the entirely unconstitutional grounds that English is now the only acceptable language of access to education.  

This is an indirect contradiction of the right in Section 29(2) of the Constitution to education in the language of one's choice. Worse still, it undermines the right of Afrikaans-speakers to equality and to freedom from discrimination on the basis of their language. The new policy will deny the right of Afrikaans speakers to their right to practise their culture - particularly in university residences.

The sad reality is that the university management is embarrassed by the university's former Afrikaans identity and wishes to dispense with it as quickly and as painlessly as it can. All those who support the right of people to education in the language of their choice, who support the constitutional ideal of multiculturalism and multilingualism and who are concerned about the future of Afrikaans - not only at university level - but also in our schools - should make their voices heard. All concerned South Africans should appeal to the University Council to reject the university management's proposals - proposals that would for all practical purposes bring an end to any pretence of a continuing role for Afrikaans at Stellenbosch.

Photo Courtesy: SLU.

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