Govt not gunning for Afrikaans
Cape Town - The government had no desire to do away with Afrikaans as a language of teaching and learning, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande said on Thursday.
"Our position has been consistently clear that all official languages in South Africa, including Afrikaans should enjoy parity of esteem as stipulated by the Constitution," Nzimande said in Stellenbosch at the installation of Stellenbosch University's new chancellor, businessman Johann Rupert.
"Our language policy for higher education gives recognition to Afrikaans as a language of scholarship and research, and states very clearly that as such, the language should be treated as a national asset, and be preserved accordingly."
What the policy objected to was the tendency to use Afrikaans as a barrier for access by non-speakers of the language.
Stellenbosch, historically the intellectual cradle of the Afrikaner, has for years been embroiled in debates over its language policy.
Describing itself as "predominantly an Afrikaans institution functioning within a multilingual world", it currently offers a complex set of options for teaching in Afrikaans, English and combinations of the two.
Nzimande said Stellenbosch had achieved much in its efforts to be counted among the great universities in the country, and had made efforts towards transformation.
"[However] there is still a challenge which is to translate your initiatives and achievements into an institutional culture that is fully inclusive, diverse, and truly South African," he said.
He had in his engagement with the higher education community raised issues such as "certain institutional cultures" which continued to impede learning by and success of many students.
It was not the role of the government alone to make sure all students felt welcomed and accommodated in all aspects of university life. The institutions themselves should take initiatives to create a culturally and intellectually enriching experience for all their members, particularly the students.
"It is the responsibility of institutions to promote equity of access and fair chances of success to all who are seeking to realise their potential through higher education," he said.
Rupert chairs the Swiss-based luxury-goods company Richemont as well as South Africa-based VenFin and Remgro.
As a young man he enrolled at Stellenbosch to study economics and company law, but dropped out to pursue a career in business.
In 2004 the university awarded him an honorary doctorate in economics.