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Stellenbosch agrees to keep Afrikaans

File Photo: Cindy Waxa

File Photo: Cindy Waxa

Published Feb 13, 2016


Cape Town - Afrikaans has returned to Stellenbosch University as a medium of instruction after a Western Cape High Court dispute over the issue with activist group AfriForum Youth was settled on Friday.

As a result of the settlement, a group of nine English-speaking students, who are at various stages of their studies at the university, abandoned their bid to intervene in the proceedings.

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But their attorney, Mandy Mudarikwa of the Legal Resources Centre, said they were still considering their options.

In affidavits they filed before abandoning their application, the students said they had difficulty following lectures presented in Afrikaans, and many found that the use of interpretation devices did not improve the situation.

One student had stopped attending classes.

Some said they last used Afrikaans at primary school level, while one student said she could not follow the “academic Afrikaans” used during lectures.

Another student, Rabia Abba Omar, said she had attended school in Joburg and had lived in Muscat, Oman, and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

She had no knowledge of or ability to speak, write or understand Afrikaans and often had to ask fellow students to explain the lessons.

Thokozani Chili, a third-year engineering student, said her home language was Zulu.

“I could not follow the content of the class because the translations were hard to follow, since I could hear both the translator and the lecturer at the same time.”

She said she had been forced to leave the university.

Philemon Mogale, a final-year engineering student, said meetings in residences were conducted exclusively in Afrikaans, “which fed into the racist traditions which permeated many of the more traditionally Afrikaner residences”.

The language controversy began last year, when student activist movement Open Stellenbosch lobbied for the introduction of English as the medium of instruction.

AfriForum took the issue to court after the university’s engineering and law faculties decided last month to use English as the primary language of instruction. This, they claimed, was in conflict with the university’s language policy.

The matter was settled on Friday after the university gave AfriForum a written undertaking that steps would be taken to ensure all faculties implement the university’s language policy and plan, as well as the language specifications published in the 2016 yearbook.

This meant Afrikaans would have equal status to English as a medium of instruction, AfriForum Youth said.

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