[lg policy] South Africa: New language policy planned for Elsenburg after protests

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Sep 4 15:34:34 UTC 2015

New language policy planned for Elsenburg after protests 2015-09-03 17:47

Tammy Petersen, News24
[image: (Tammy Petersen, News24)]

(Tammy Petersen, News24)

Related Links

   - Temporary interdict against Elsenburg protests granted
   - Security beefed up at Elsenburg college after violent clashes
   - Student injured as sjamboks fly in Stellenbosch college protest

Cape Town - Ovayo Zilo says the only Afrikaans she knows is how to greet.

"I barely understand the language. The only word I know is môre, because
they say that every morning," she said.

She was one of dozens of students who took part in the protests at
Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch since Monday against the
college’s language policy and alleged rampant racism at the institution.

Deciphering what is being taught during Afrikaans lectures is a mission,
Zilo said.

"I am completely lost - I am unable to engage at all," she said.

"I spend such a lot of time trying to make sense of what was discussed. The
lessons are not translated – part is given in Afrikaans, the other in
English. Combining the two is impossible if you don’t understand the half
of it."

Calm was restored at the institution on Thursday after students and
institution management met on Wednesday to reach a compromise.

It was agreed that separate lessons will be conducted in both English and
Afrikaans and students can decide which lesson they choose to attend.

English tutors will be available to assist those who missed out on classes
during the protests, in which some students demanded lessons be given in
English only.

On Wednesday, before the agreement was reached between protesters and the
institution, an upset student told News24 he preferred to "figure things
out" on his own as Afrikaans is foreign to him.

"I am not English. At home, I speak isiXhosa. But what upset me is that
English is a universal language which all of us understand. Why are we
being alienated with Afrikaans?"

The college’s 50-50 language policy means that most black students
understand lessons only 50% of the time, student Liphelo Mpumlwana said.

She is part of the leadership of Decolonise EIC, which led the protests.

*Language barrier*

There are black students who opted to drop out because of the language
barrier, she said.

"Some can’t cope with the pressure of being taught in a language they don’t

But Afrikaans students say black students should have considered this
before applying to Elsenburg.

"This school is marketed as an Afrikaans institution," one student said.

"It is in an Afrikaans town. If you are against Afrikaans, why enrol here
in the first place?"

He described the protests as "a dumb way of getting what you want".

"Instead of interrupting everyone else who came here to learn, they should
simply have taken their issues to management. That way our precious class
time wouldn’t have been disrupted."

*New language policy*

But another Afrikaans student said he understood the group’s frustration.

"I would probably feel exactly the same if classes were given in isiXhosa,"
he said.

"However, I feel that non-Afrikaans speakers should have known what was
waiting when they applied here. It’s not as if Afrikaans classes were
introduced yesterday."

The college falls under the Western Cape Department of Agriculture.

Its spokesperson Petro van Rhyn said a task team, instituted by the College
Council, will engage students and role-players to facilitate the
development of a new language policy.

"Independent mediators, which have been on site for three weeks, will
continue to facilitate the transformation process, diversity management
training and conflict resolution involving students, lecturers and
administrative personnel," she said.

Mpumlwana said while Decolonise EIC has reached a compromise with
management, the language hurdle is one of many which need to be overcome.

Being a black student at Elsenburg is anything but easy, she said, adding
that the group plans to continue engaging on issues surrounding


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