[lg policy] South Africa: Sea change in varsity language policies

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sun Nov 22 19:32:26 UTC 2015


 Sea change in varsity language policies November 22 2015 at 02:52pm
By Noloyiso Mtembu [image: iol news pic Maties Stellenbosch
University] INDEPENDENT
MEDIA File picture: David Ritchie

Cape Town - Stellenbosch University (SU) management’s announcement of
English as the primary language of teaching and communication from as early
as January has turned the spotlight on language policies of other Afrikaans
institutions.

SU’s changed language policy awaits approval by its council at the end of
the month before it can be implemented.

An intellectual and financial hub of Afrikaner nationalism during
apartheid, SU announced last week teaching would primarily be in English.

It would also become the lingua franca of meetings at student residences as
well as of administration, including meetings, official documents and
services at reception desks and the call centre.

Two hundred and twenty sixSU academic and support staff endorsed the
decision last week.

“A decision to make English the language of meetings, documents and
university business enables SU to effectively move beyond its political
past,” they said.

“Developing an inclusive and shared institutional ethos based on equal
worth, dignity and respect would establish our university as a welcoming
place for students, academics, and all its workers”.

In contrast, Afrikaans advocacy groups like AfriForum and the FW De Klerk
Foundation are dismayed by SU’s shift.

Countrywide, inclusivity is the trend as previously Afrikaans-preference
institutionsmove towards multilingualism.

Elsenburg College outside Stellenbosch – where tension flipped into
violence between black and white students over Afrikaans’s continued
superior status in September – agreed on parallel English and Afrikaans
classes as an interim mediation measure.

Speaking to Weekend Argus last week, its spokeswoman Petro van Rhyn said
they would implement a multilingual language policy in line with the
Provincial Language Act.

“The practical implications are still being finalised. The policy will
underline the inclusive and quality education we present at the
institution,” she said.

North West University already offers classes in English and Afrikaans – set
to increase next year.

This year, students formed an activist group, ReformPUK, to “address
questions of transformation, high fees, academic and financial exclusions
and the outsourcing of work”.

University spokesman Louis Jacobs said its Potchefstroom campus was largely
Afrikaans but it plans to “expand our parallel medium offering”, so that
English-language classes will increase.

He said students already used devices aiding translationfrom Afrikaans to
English.

However, ReformPUK said translation remains one of their grievances with
the university’s language policy.

The group said: “To date, black and English-speaking students are oppressed
by Afrikaans medium education with translation services that are totally
useless.”

They accused the university of negotiating in bad faith when, in October,
it promised them an audience with the university council scweekheduled to
meet on Friday, if they ceased #FeesMustFall protests.

Jacobs dismissed Reform PUK’s bad faith charge and said students had never
been promised an audience with its university council.

http://www.iol.co.za/news/politics/sea-change-in-varsity-language-policies-1.1949008#.VlIX1OKU2-c


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