The Black Lawyers Association student chapter (BLAsc) at Stellenbosch University (SU) has welcomed the university’s ’mandatory and planned’ language policy review for 2021. File picture: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
The Black Lawyers Association student chapter (BLAsc) at Stellenbosch University (SU) has welcomed the university’s ’mandatory and planned’ language policy review for 2021. File picture: Cindy Waxa/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Stellenbosch University to review its language policy

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Mar 10, 2021

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Cape Town - The Black Lawyers Association student chapter (BLAsc) at Stellenbosch University (SU) has welcomed the university’s “mandatory and planned” language policy review for 2021.

This after the university revealed on Monday that its Language Policy (2016) was being revised as part of the five-year revision cycle prescribed in the policy.

The university said section 10 of the Language Policy (2016) stipulates that the policy “lapses five years after the date of its implementation” and it “must be reviewed during its fifth year of operation”.

The current policy was implemented in 2017.

Bradley Frolick, founding chairperson for SU’s BLAsc, said the association supported the principles of equality and democracy.

“We recommit ourselves to the constitutional court judgment in Gelyke Kanse that the language policy takes into account substantive equality and accessibility,” said Frolick.

“Therefore we look forward to the university upholding their commitment to the constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.”

SU said the revision process was initiated in October last year by convening a task team, and proposed a timeline based on the university almanac for 2021. The objective was to table a final draft Language Policy (2021) for approval by council on December 2 this year.

DA constituency head at Stellenbosch Leon Schreiber said sustained pressure by the DA over the past year – including through court actions and public campaigns – has resulted in an announcement by SU that it would immediately review its controversial language policy.

Schreiber said that decisive victory for the DA in defence of mother-tongue education comes amid a storm that erupted after reports that the current language policy banned students from speaking Afrikaans – even in their hostels and on campus.

“The early revision of the language policy now provides a final opportunity for the university to implement a fairer language policy,” said Schreiber.

He said the DA would build further on the pressure they have already generated by launching a full-scale campaign to place English and Afrikaans students on an equal footing at SU.

DA leader John Steenhuisen and Schreiber, conducted an oversight inspection and fact-finding mission to the university on Wednesday, where the party said it “is perturbed” about the concerns raised by discussions during their visit.

The party said it spoke with some of the students involved, as well as with student organizations and representatives of the convocation.

“It is clear that the practice of intimidation is not limited to one residence. We have heard from students from different residences that they are even forbidden from speaking Afrikaans while brushing their teeth in the morning.

“Several students have revealed how they were intimidated when they complained and several have referred to the impact this has had on their studies because they struggle with English on an academic level,” Steenhuisen said.

“The problem is clearly systemic, and the crisis has been further exacerbated by media reports today that the university intends to only offer future courses in English. What is currently taking place at SU is a shocking violation of Afrikaans students' constitutional rights.

“Despite its lame excuses, it seems that these latest transgressions are completely in line with the spirit of the 2016 language policy, which Afrikaans was abolished as an equal language of instruction alongside English.”

Steenhuisen said that the DA is committed to the language rights of all South Africans as contained in the Constitution and will therefore use all evidence gathered to lodge a formal complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL Rights Commission), as well as drive the issue in Parliament.

“We call on these Constitutional institutions to launch urgent investigations into the matter as this issue is of great importance to our Constitution's quest to build a nation where diversity and multilingualism are seen as an asset, rather than a burden.”

Cape Argus

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