[lg policy] South Africa: Open Stellenbosch students set sights on language policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Tue Apr 5 14:34:13 UTC 2016

Open Stellenbosch students set sights on language policy
by Bekezela Phakathi
05 April 2016, 05:57

[image: Students hold placards at a protest against alleged racism on
campus brought to light by a documentary, Luister (Listen), in Stellenbosch
on Tuesday. Picture: AFP PHOTO/RODGER BOSCH]
PROTEST: Stellenbosch students march last year against language policy and
racial inequality at the university. Picture: AFP PHOTO/RODGER BOSCH
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STUDENT activist group Open Stellenbosch is to approach the Equality Court
to challenge the University of Stellenbosch’s "discriminatory" language

On Monday Open Stellenbosch spokesman Majaletje Mathura said: "The
university has regressed and things are worse now following the granting of
the AfriForum interdict (by the Western Cape High Court).

"The majority of students are having to attend extra classes, which is a
major inconvenience.… We are left with no choice but to approach the
Equality Court to challenge the language policy, which discriminates
against most students and academics."

The university, which aims to increase its black, coloured and Indian
student numbers to more than 15,000 in the next five years, has a student
body of 30,000 — 62% of whom are white, 18% coloured, 17% black and 3%
Indian, according to this year’s preliminary figures.

The institution uses both English and Afrikaans as mediums of instruction
at undergraduate level, while English is the main language of instruction
at postgraduate level.

Critics charge the language policy, which was the subject of an AfriForum
Youth court battle with the university last month, is vague. They cite as
problematic the fact that it states "Afrikaans and English are applied in
various usage configurations", while "parallel-medium teaching and
real-time educational interpretation are used as preferred options where
practically feasible and affordable".

Open Stellenbosch says the policy neglects those who cannot understand
Afrikaans because the quality of the university’s interpretation services
is poor.

Mr Mathura said proposed new language guidelines, which were opened to
comment last month, were little changed.

"It (the proposed policy) seeks to maintain Afrikaans as a medium of
instruction, but the key principle — which most university stakeholders
agree on — is that English should be the primary medium, with extensive
support for Afrikaans and isiXhosa," he told Business Day.

The high court granted AfriForum Youth an interdict last month, ordering
the institution to implement its interim language policy that accords
parity to Afrikaans and English.

Last month, university management said a push to give English and Afrikaans
equal status had added pressure on academic staff.

Johan Hattingh, the university’s dean of arts and social sciences, said
Stellenbosch wanted to be "100%" accessible to students not academically
literate in Afrikaans and all module content covered in lectures would also
be available in English.

"Most departments will return to the conventional T-modules, with the
proviso that this will be implemented with the utmost circumspection to
ensure that no student is excluded on the basis of language of tuition,"
said Prof Hattingh in a communiqué to students.


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