[lg policy] South Africa: Taal used to disadvantage non-speakers

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sun Aug 30 20:16:32 UTC 2015

 Taal used to disadvantage non-speakers August 30 2015 at 12:35pm
By Khaye Nkwanyana Comment on this story
Copy of cd 6 Luister 2] YOUTUBE A documentary titled Luister [Listen] tells
the stories of black students and a lecturer's experiences at Stellenbosch
University's Agricultural College, Eisenberg.

*If the students assertions in the Luister video are true, this is a
violation of the constitution, says Khaye Nkwanyana.*

Johannesburg - The country has been in pain after the exposé by
Stellenbosch University black students in the #Luister video. Among other
racial prejudices mentioned in the interviews by students is the issue of
dual language.

Many have been asking why Higher Education and Training Minister Blade
Nzimande does not ban Afrikaans usage in all the former Afrikaans

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Section 6 (1), (2) and
(4) of the Founding Provisions, states that “the state must take practical
and positive measures to elevate the status and advance the use of these
(the indigenous) languages” and that all official languages must enjoy
parity of esteem and be treated equitably.

The constitution enjoins the Pan South African Language Board to promote
and create conditions for the development and use of these and other

With regard to the provision of languages at institutions of higher
learning, Section 29 (2) of the constitution states that “everyone has the
right to receive education in the official language or languages of their
choice in public educational institutions where that education is
reasonably practicable”.

In order to ensure the effective access to, and implementation of this
right, the state must consider all reasonable educational alternatives,
including single-medium institutions, taking into account equity,
practicability and the need to redress results of past racially
discriminatory laws and practices.

These facts are stated so that there is a clear understanding on the
obligations of the Minister of Higher Education and Training.

In terms of Section 27 (2) of the Higher Education Act (101 of 1997, as
amended), the minister determines language policy for higher education.

In accordance with this legislation, each institution of higher education
is required to establish its own language policy, guided by the
constitution and Language Policy for Higher Education.

This requirement takes into account the autonomy of institutions to
determine flexible language policies provided that such determination is
within the context of public accountability and the minister’s
responsibility to establish the parameters.

Although the Language Policy for Higher Education is designed to promote
African languages in institutional policies and practices in higher
education, it clearly does not make a determination for institutions to
instruct in the various mother tongues.

It would be against the constitution if institutions were to instruct in a
language that would disadvantage non-speakers of that particular language.

For example, English as a medium language of tuition allows access for all
to our higher education institutions and therefore no one is prevented from
accessing our higher education institutions if English is utilised as a
language of instruction.

In terms of individual university language policies, multilingualism is
supported. Currently, however, it is not practical to use languages other
than English or Afrikaans as a medium of tuition, as these have not been
developed as languages of instruction at school level. The language of
instruction at most universities is therefore English, while most formerly
Afrikaans institutions have a dual-language policy.

The action thus required is aggressive improvement of universities in
developing indigenous languages. The promotion of multilingualism in the
higher education sector is imperative as the constitution accords equal
status to all our languages.

In this regard, the Language Policy for Higher Education published in
November 2002 is the framework that guides the practices at these

The department is in the process of revising this policy to ensure that
other South African languages can be developed to a level where they can
enjoy parity in our universities.

We know it will be a tortuous task to develop our indigenous languages to
academic languages that we can use to teach.

The real problem we are confronting at Stellenbosch University is the
evidence that Afrikaans as a medium of instruction is prominently used to
the disadvantage of its non-speakers.

In this case, if the students assertions in the video are true, this is a
violation of the constitution. The minister has therefore wrote a letter to
the University Council for it to account in this regard.

* Khaye Nkwanyana is spokesman for the Minister of Higher Education and

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

*The Sunday Independent*


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