[lg policy] 'Afrikaans use denies black students access'

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Wed Jun 13 10:42:20 EDT 2018

-- 'Afrikaans use denies black students access'

News <https://www.iol.co.za/the-star/news> / 13 June 2018, 08:51am / *Bongani

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The highest court in the land was now poised to be the final arbiter in the
raging battle by Afrikaans lobby groups to have the language reinstated as
a parallel medium of instruction at a number of universities.
Afrikaans simply had to fall as a dominant language at Stellenbosch
University (SU) because it denied black students access, the institution
says in papers filed at the Constitutional Court.

The highest court in the land was now poised to be the final arbiter in the
raging battle by Afrikaans lobby groups to have the language reinstated as
a parallel medium of instruction at a number of universities.

SU will square off at the court with Gelyke Kanse, a lobby group that wants
the Western Cape-based institution to reinstate Afrikaans as a parallel
medium of instruction.
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Gelyke Kanse brought an application aiming to set aside a high court ruling
that favoured the university’s 2016 decision to adopt English as its single
medium of instruction.

In a founding affidavit filed at the Constitutional Court, the group’s
counsels, Jan Heunis and Karrisha Pillay, argued that the university’s new
language policy was inconsistent with the constitution.

The constitution granted everyone a right to be educated in an official
language of their choice, provided this was practical, they said. “We
submit that the ongoing annihilation of Afrikaans as a language of
instruction does not accord with the positive obligation imposed on
national government by section 6(4) of the constitution.”

They further accused the university of not dumping Afrikaans for
transformation purposes, but as a reaction to the growing number of white,
English-speaking students and lecturers.

“That the Anglicisation of the SU had little to do with transformation is
evident, for example by the fact that 85% of the English-speaking students
who entered SU between 1995 and 2015 were white,” Heunis and Pillay said.

“Accordingly, we submit, the new language policy is aimed at addressing the
needs of English-speaking white students, as opposed to students of colour.

“This does not meet the objectives of racial equity or integration.”

The university rejected this claim, saying the majority of its new students
in recent years were black. “It is difficult to understand why this is
relevant,” said SU’s counsels, Jeremy Muller and Nick de Jager, in their
responding affidavit.

They said 63% of the institution’s first-year students in 2015 were blacks
who did not write Afrikaans in matric. The majority of black African
students could not learn in Afrikaans,” Muller and De Jager said.

The policy SU adopted in 2014, which used English and Afrikaans as parallel
languages of instruction, was not favourable to black students.

“Whatever the reason for the increasing use of English at SU over earlier
decades, the reality in 2016 was that the 2014 policy disproportionately
denied black African students access to education,” argued Muller and De

AfriForum has waged - and lost - similar legal battles against Unisa, the
University of Pretoria and Free State University. The North-West University
was now the only university still using Afrikaans and English.

SU said Gelyke Kanse was barking up the wrong tree over phasing out of
Afrikaans at the country’s universities.

“The applicants’ real concern - the nationwide decline in Afrikaans
tertiary education - should be addressed by a challenge to the ministerial
policy, not a challenge to individual universities’ language policies that
are consistent with that policy.”

Constitutional Court registrar Kgwadi Makgakga has informed the parties
that the matter will be heard on September 13.


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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