[lg policy] South Africa: Democratic Alliance leader defends Stellenbosch language policy

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 4 14:12:43 UTC 2009

DA defends Maties policy

Afrikaans policy: Judgment held
English varsities 'elitist'

Cape Town - Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille staunchly defended
the University of Stellenbosch's language policy on Thursday, saying
it was justified by demographics and the demand for Afrikaans-medium
teaching. "The question is, is there enough demand for one or two
Afrikaans-medium universities? There is more than enough," she told a
media briefing where the DA outlined its higher education policy.
Zille stressed that 60% of the population of the Western Cape is
Afrikaans-speaking and advised Stellenbosch to draw and foster
talented, disadvantaged students from that group. "The challenge for
Stellenbosch University is to identify Afrikaans-speaking students
from poor backgrounds who can succeed and to admit them."

Using language to exclude

The university has come under fire from Higher Education Minister
Blade Nzimande, who accuses it of using the constitutional protection
of all 11 national languages to remain a white, elitist enclave. He is
on record as saying Stellenbosch "uses language to exclude people".
The DA's higher education spokesperson, Wilmot James, said he saw no
reason why the university should not be allowed to "preserve its
cultural heritage. The university's language policy in relation to its
student pool is about right". James warned Nzimande that the
government "cannot use its funding policy" to force the university to
change. He accused the minister of having spent "three months flying
kites" since he took up his post and of failing to put in place a
single constructive policy improvement.

Worst scenario

James said the worst scenario for South Africa's education system
would be to allow the government to undermine the independence of
universities through centralised intervention. Nzimande has called for
a central admission system throughout the country to ensure fairness
and said there were discussions last month about transferring the
running of Further Education and Training (FET) colleges to his
department. James dismissed the notion, saying though FET colleges
must be developed, "the way to do it is not to centralise it". He
argued that autonomy was vital to ensure that higher learning
institutions had the freedom and "critical distance from government"
to do what serves students and not the short-term interests of the
ruling party. The DA said it would seek to implement its policies on
education in the Western Cape, the only province where the party is in


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