[lg policy] South Africa: We're not opposed to Afrikaans - Nzimande

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Feb 20 16:34:15 UTC 2010

We're not opposed to Afrikaans - Nzimande
19 February 2010

But higher education minister warns against using language as an
instrument of exclusion

Address by the Minister of Higher Education and Training Dr Blade
Nzimande at the Installation of Dr Johann Rupert as Chancellor of
Stellenbosch University

 18 February 2010

Programme Director, Mr. Mohammed Shaik

Honourable Minister Trevor Manuel

Premier of the Western Cape, Ms Hellen Zille

Mayor of Stellenbosch, Mr. Cyril Jooste

Chancellors present

Vice Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, Professor Russel Botman

Members of Council of Stellenbosch University

Vice Chancellors and Deputy Vice Chancellors of our higher education

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

It is a great honour for me to be invited to offer a congratulatory
message at this special function of the inauguration of Dr Johann
Rupert as Chancellor of Stellenbosch University.
Dr Johann Rupert is a distinguished South African business leader and
entrepreneur. Having studied Company Law and Economics at this
institution many years back, Dr Rupert has traversed the journey from
student to Chancellor and in a sense has completed a full circle.
Programme Director, I would like to take this opportunity to extend my
warmest welcome to Dr Rupert and congratulate you, Sir, on your
appointment as the 14th Chancellor of the University of Stellenbosch.

Dr Rupert, my Department wishes you the greatest of success in your
appointment and is looking forward to work with you and the leadership
of Stellenbosch University, in addressing some of the pertinent
challenges that confront our higher education institutions today. It
is in the working together that we can forge new paths and find ways
to advance the goals of access, equity and success meaningfully. This
university is one of our prime assets in the higher education sector
with respect to research and scholarly excellence. Additionally, the
university has made its mark on the international arena with the
wealth of the institution i.e. your academics and researchers
achieving honours and accolades in various disciplines. This
reputation remains an asset for South Africa as a whole and needs to
be maintained.

I have noted and from my conversations with many that the university
remains a place for vociferous debate as it seeks its identity and
grapples with critical issues. Some of these challenges were
inevitable, given the long history of separation, unequal re-sourcing
of our institutions along racial lines and silo development that
characterized our sector.

Issues of transformation and social responsiveness remain on the table
and will require courage, conviction and the will to interrogate from
all perspectives. In June last year, I released the report in Racism
and Discrimination in our sector. This report, Honourable Chancellor
was made available to all institutions. I urged institutions to debate
this report within their institutions prior to responding to me. I
raise this as it is daunting to note that the journey required to
achieve our shared goals is not complete as yet.

These challenges require a frank and open engagement by all of us, as
government, university management and council, the alumni, and the
entire higher education community. Since 1994 we have made a
commitment as a country that the doors of learning shall be opened to
all people of South Africa irrespective of race, gender or creed. We
remain true to this commitment as we continue to tackle the challenges
and impediments that prevent us from realizing this noble ideal.

I have, previously, in my engagement with the higher education
community, raised issues such as certain institutional cultures which
continue to be impediments to effective learning and success rate of
many of our learners. They even become barriers to foreign students
and academics, thereby closing development opportunities that arise
from scholarship exchanges. It is not the role of government alone to
make sure that our institutions become spaces where all of our
students feel welcomed and accommodated in all aspects of university
life. The institutions themselves should be proactive and take
initiatives to create a culturally and intellectually enriching
experience for all its members, particularly the students.

It is the responsibility of institutions to promote equity of access
and fair chances of success to all who are seeking to realize their
potential through higher education.

The White Paper 3: A Programme for the Transformation of Higher
Education (1997), and the National Plan for Higher Education (2001)
foreground the promotion of democratic ethos and the culture of human
rights, as central to the role of education in general and higher
education in particular. These policy documents spell out that, our
educational programmes and practices should not only be conducive to
the imparting of critical discourse and intellectual stimulation, but
should also promote the culture of tolerance of diversity, and
commitment to a humane, non-racist and non-sexist order.

Universities are thus, not just intellectual spaces, but cultural
spaces as well. As such, they inculcate values in students. These
values do not only reflect the values of the society as a whole, but
also shape them.

Despite having achieved so much as the university in your effort to be
counted among the great in the country and the efforts that you have
made towards transformation, there is still a challenge which is to
translate your initiatives and achievements into an institutional
culture that is fully inclusive, diverse, and truly South African.

The institution's language policy expresses the intent to move towards
multilingualism - in particular to play a critical role in the
promotion of English and isiXhosa as mediums of instruction alongside
Afrikaans. Some of your faculties have also moved towards parallel
medium of instruction. In doing this, let us not miss the opportunity,
which defines scholarship, that, which sees research opportunity in
the midst of addressing a challenge.

For instance, why should we not be at the forefront of
multilingualism, parallel medium of instruction, dual or multiple
languages of teaching, research and learning, and so on, because we
are exposed to many languages within the country, let alone foreign
languages? It should also be borne in mind that that the overwhelming
majority of students in South Africa are taught in their second
language, English, and we need to consider the impact of this fact on
access and success rates.

There seems to be a perception that government wants to do away with
Afrikaans as language of teaching and learning. Our position has been
consistently clear that all official languages in South Africa
including Afrikaans should enjoy parity of esteem as stipulated by the
constitution of the country. Our Language Policy for Higher Education
gives recognition to Afrikaans as a language of scholarship and
research, and states very clearly that as such, the language should be
treated as a national asset, and be preserved accordingly. What the
Policy objects to, is the tendency to use Afrikaans as a barrier for
access of non-speakers of the language. As such, we will continue to
engage those who seek to do so, to remind them of our commitment and
undertaking to make education accessible to all South Africans.

In conclusion, I hope Chancellor, Dr Rupert, the challenges that I am
raising will not prove daunting as you take up your rightful place in
the history of this institution, because we need you in the sector. I
trust that, as alumni of this institution, you are in a privileged
position to understand the issues and some of the challenges that the
institution faces. You are now part of us as the higher education
community and we are looking forward to your leadership and ideas on
how we can take our higher education system to greater heights and
overcome some of the challenges that continue to draw us back.

My Department welcomes you, and is looking forward to a constructive
and mutually enriching engagement with you. Congratulations

I thank you

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