Stellenbosch University. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court has dismissed the appeal by Afrikaans lobby group Gelyke Kanse against the 2016 language policy of Stellenbosch University which saw English being elevated above Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.

The apex court said while most entrants to the university were able to be taught in Afrikaans, a significant minority could not understand the language which meant they were being unjustly excluded.

Gelyke Kanse had pushed for the University to adopt and implement its 2014 language policy which permitted a parallel English/Afrikaans medium tuition, among other things.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Johan Froneman said the university had been able to demonstrate that all Afrikaans speaking students would be able to be taught in English.

“The 2014 policy created an exclusionary hurdle for specifically black students. The university showed that classes conducted in Afrikaans, with interpreting from Afrikaans into English, made black students not conversant in Afrikaans feel marginalised, excluded and stigmatised,” Justice Froneman said.

The university had previously predominantly used Afrikaans as the main medium of instruction.

Justice Froneman said the university’s process of adopting the 2016 policy had been thorough, exhaustive and inclusive.

“The university’s determinative motivation for introducing the new policy was to facilitate equitable access to its campus, its teaching and learning opportunities by black students not conversant in Afrikaans,” he said.

He said for this to happen, a downward adjustment of Afrikaans, without eliminating it, was warranted.

Gelyke Kanse had initially approached the Western Cape High Court where its application was dismissed, as the court insisted that the university’s obligations to provide Afrikaaans education were limited to where it was reasonable practicable.

Political Bureau