[lg policy] NWURacism Students protest

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Wed Sep 12 10:46:54 EDT 2018

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#NWURacism Students Protest Language Policy
[image: Fatima Moosa]By *Fatima Moosa*
<http://www.thedailyvox.co.za/author/fatima/> Last updated *Sep 11, 2018*
<https://twitter.com/share?text=#NWURacism Students Protest Language Policy
<?subject=#NWURacism Students Protest Language

*On Friday September 7, students from the University of the North West
Potchefstroom campus embarked on a strike. They handed over a joint
Economic Freedom Fighters Student Command and South African Student
Congress memorandum. The students are calling for English to be implemented
as a the medium of instruction and to do away from Afrikaans. The Daily Vox
team rounds up.*

Many students took to social media after the strike. They said that while
the strike was peaceful, they were met with extreme racism from students.
Students protested saying that they would not accept the resolution that
they be taught in Tswana as not all students on the campus were
Tswana-speaking. Additionally, the use of translation devices and
translators were brought up as being very unhelpful. In a memorandum seen
by The Daily Vox, other demands include insourcing and for an increase in
black students who are admitted to the university.

Speaking to The Daily Vox, first-year BA Communications student and member
of the South African Student Congress at NWU, Otlotleng Moremedi said that
there was no specific incident that led to the students protesting but that
it has been an ongoing issue.

“This march was sparked by the fact that on our campus we are still not
seen as equal as the other people. North West University prides itself on
its multilingualism but then in Afrikaans classes, we are forced to have
interpretation services whereas we could all have English classes as
English is a universal language that is understood by everyone,”

Moremedi says the students decided to have a march to hand over the
memorandum to the office of the vice-chancellor.  She says it was received
by Professor Lumkile Lalandle on behalf of the VC Dan Kgwadi.

“I think it is something that has been building because we had a language
debate earlier this year and we were told that they will give us the
results and they will give us feedback on what we’ll do moving forward and
we are still waiting on that,” she said about the reason for the protest
being held on Friday.
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The students have given management 7 working days to go through the
memorandum and give feedback. They will be going back on Wednesday or
Thursday to the management to hear what they have to say and hear their

The social media reaction to the strike was huge. Moremedi says there
hasn’t been a reaction from students in person.

“On social media it has been very hectic. It’s actually disheartening. The
management sees all these comments but they don’t even defend us as
students. Most of the comments come from the parents of the
Afrikaans-speaking students that are on this campus. They have insulted us
in ways that are really you can’t even imagine a grown person can describe
young students in that way,”

Regarding the demands that English and not any other language be taught,
Moremedi said, “From the beginning of this year, we had many students from
different disadvantaged backgrounds and many people have never even heard a
word of Afrikaans. They only see it on tv and are not very familiar with
it. We want English because it is a commonly used language. People from
different countries that come to South Africa are not familiar with other
languages but are familiar with English. We chose English because it is a
universal language. It is not that difficult to understand and learn as
opposed to English,”

The racism and language segregation issues at NWU-Pukke are not new. Just
prior to the Fees Must Fall protests in 2015, a student from the university
spoke to The Daily Vox about their experience of subtle racism at the

This included being taught in Afrikaans most of the time despite the
university being sold as a bilingual university. Other experiences of the
university included racist remarks and comments from the Afrikaans-speaking

Moremedi said the general atmosphere at the university as a black student
is that there are more Afrikaans-speaking students.

“We feel like we are unwelcome. Even in the classrooms and especially in
the Afrikaans classrooms and the fact that we have to listen to the
interpretation services. It shows us that we are not even seen as a
priority,” she said.


 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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